hat is holism?
The word ‘holism’ or ‘holistic’ has become popularized in recent decades, and represents a universal ideology that recognizes the interconnectedness of all parts in any system (whether conceived in terms of the environment, holistic health, scientific, psychological, religious, or other perspectives). Such a whole-system worldview is in direct contrast to a reductionistic approach that frames and perceives phenomena as a collection of separate, disconnected things in offering explanations (although the specialization of reductionism has it own merits and applications). While whole-system thinking may seem to be a new development in the modern world, holism as a worldview actually descends to us from ancient wisdom.
The word ‘holism’ is derived from the Greek holos, translated as “complete, whole, entire, all”. In the ancient world, the kosmos and everything in it was conceived as an interrelated, harmonious, balanced whole. Indeed, one meaning of the term kosmos itself signified an “ordered whole” or alternately, a”beautifully ordered whole”. Yet the ideal of the world and everything in it as comprising a balanced totality or harmony is documented as far back as the distant past of ancient Egypt, and is embodied in the concept of Ma’at over 4,000 years ago.
Holistic thinking is therefore a way of conceiving the world in its entirety as an interrelated system where all parts within the whole are recognized as intricately connected. Although clothed in many different guises, all holistic philosophies present core concepts and consistent patterns of thought which can be identified across various disciplines or cultures. It is these essential, key concepts that are detailed, examined and discussed in both the book and online course on The Ancient Art of Holistic Thinking, with ancient Greek & Egyptian thought providing the focus and context for in-depth philosophical analysis.
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What’s different about this approach to ancient Greek philosophy or Egyptology?
While it’s not difficult to find abundant material on Egyptology, and ancient Greek philosophy is taught everywhere at the college level, these subjects are usually taught separately. It is quite rare for these two cultural ideologies to be presented and analyzed in detail within a complementary, comparative context. Furthermore, although holism in the context of eastern thought and holistic health has become quite popular in the west even at mainstream universities, the ancient roots of holistic philosophy and practice in Egypt and Greece are generally not addressed (although there are exceptions).
Those interested in such comparative study would have to do in-depth research from an interdisciplinary approach in order to document various interconnections and parallels. However, The Ancient Art of Holistic Thinking, pieces together vital connections between Egyptian, Platonic, Pre-socratic, and Pythagorean philosophies, providing pertinent information which can be explored in one place. Both the online course and/or book are based on well-documented academic research at the graduate level, and present ancient philosophy in a unique way not offered at traditional universities, nor are books on the topic readily available.
The last piece that makes this approach unique, is that the author’s personal background in holism is eclectic. Beginning with yogic philosophy and practice Ms. Letcher has investigated a variety of holistic models for over two decades. As a holistic practitioner, she offered a variety of services to enhance well-being in body, mind and emotions, including massage therapy, stress management and dance & fitness classes. Also trained in psychosynthesis, and transformational healing practices, the comparative, multicultural approach taken to holistic philosophy in ancient Egypt and Greece is thus informed by an eclectic combination of formal scholarly research, additional training, professional experience, and personal practice. For further information about her background, click here.
What’s included in the course?
The online course is structured like a class lecture, with the material in the text supplemented with instruction and multimedia. This includes presentation outlines that organize the content into weekly modules, lecture notes, video, audio, as well as online discussion forum to facilitate engagement and assist with assimilating the ideas. Online instruction also includes guided prompts and homework exercises for participants to practice using and applying some of the ancient methods studied.
While the book has a distinctly formal tone, the instructor’s teaching style will be geared toward helping participants digest and ground the conceptual material presented. Analogy and metaphor were common teaching methods in the ancient world, helping to draw links between ideas and nature, which also assists with clarifying abstract concepts. Yet there are also esoteric or hidden layers embedded within such imagery that may be overlooked, but will be discussed in detail within the book and online course. Since the author’s own background and investigation into holism has been interdisciplinary, her approach will be to paraphrase as needed in ways students may be more familiar with.
What’s the format of the book?
In terms of chronology, the book is organized in reverse historic order, since most people are more familiar with Greek philosophy than Egyptian thought. Doing it this way builds on the clear conceptual framework of Plato, and using that as a foundational bridge gradually acclimates the reader to the increasingly dense symbolism of Presocratic, Pythagorean and ultimately the Egyptian texts. The farther back in time we proceed, the texts become more esoteric or hidden, since many of the passages consist of fragments and are expressed largely through an embedded symbolic language. Those unfamiliar with the necessary background would lack the connections made elsewhere that help clarify and interpret the texts, and which are pieced together and provided in the book.
How is the material of the online course/book structured?
The method of teaching follows the structure of the text, which is to first define and articulate a universal model of holism as common ground, then explain in detail how this framework is expressed in:
- – Platonic philosophy (Plato as well as Neoplatonism)
- – Presocratic thought
- – Pythagorean doctrine of number (incorporates Neopythagorean thought)
- – Ancient Egyptian philosophy
The overall message presented is one of a continuing ideology that transcends the boundaries of culture or historic periods. What participants will learn is the ability to recognize a perennial, eternal paradigm of holism that can be expressed in myriad ways and through a variety of contexts. Participants will also be able to identify how this same fundamental model reverberates across the ages – even in our modern times.
Should I take the online course or just buy the book?
A variety of different options are provided to explore the material, depending on one’s preferences, time available, etc. The online course offers the best way to maximize learning of the content in the book as well as to assimilate the overall teachings of The Ancient Art of Holistic Thinking. However, some people may not have the time to put in additional hours to study for an online course, while others may prefer to just read the text independently first, but could still opt to take the course later.
What kind of audience is the book written for?
The material for the text on Holism in Ancient Egypt & Greece emerged from a combination of both academic research as well as the author’s own eclectic background, insights and experience. The book is decidedly formal in tone as it is based on an academic thesis written to satisfy scholarly standards at the graduate level. Yet the author’s speaking and teaching style tends to be more casual, and geared toward assisting students with assimilating the content into their pre-existing frameworks. A glossary of useful terms is included in the book to clarify unfamiliar vocabulary used which is specific to the discipline of philosophy, so that the text will be accessible to an educated lay audience.
The intent is that the text be utilized both an educational resource within an academic context (students, instructors or researchers), as well as utilized by a lay, educated audience interested in the several arenas of holistic thought, those enamored with the ancient world in general, and more particularly ancient Egyptian and Greek philosophy. Since these are broad categories which also overlap, the audience an be narrowed down a bit by stating that readers who will most likely resonate most with the material probably have similar tastes to the author in certain respects. In particular, those who prefer an interdisciplinary or multicultural approach to learning will really appreciate the way the work is presented. People who enjoy finding interconnections and interrelations between ideologies will find this approach most appealing, rather than those that hold a more rigid mindset that makes absolute judgments about which single model is ultimately superior or “right” .
However in terms of personal temperament, certainly each of us may prefer one mode of articulating holism over another. Nevertheless, each framework presented can be found to have its own unique strengths and weaknesses, and may be ultimately viewed as complementing each other in various ways.
Many who study the material may not yet be aware of the similarity or parallel of core ideas which existed between ancient Greek philosophy and much earlier Egyptian thought – nor with the parallel that exists with much later ideologies. Establishing a conceptual dialogue between the two therefore opens up a unique opportunity to compare them. On the other hand, Egyptophiles (lovers of Egypt) will probably be absolutely thrilled to trace a conceptual dialogue from Greek thought back to their beloved Egypt. Finally, students of holism in general and holistic practitioners will probably appreciate the integration of universal ideas that can be applied across historic, cultural or philosophic boundaries.
Do you need a background in holism or philosophy to take the online course?
No. Although such backgrounds will probably make the ideas easier to digest, and at a quicker pace. Those accustomed to philosophic texts, some of the jargon that often goes with it and the contemplation of ideas necessary in any study of philosophy, will probably be comfortable diving right in. But since the comparative approach taken to ancient Greek and Egyptian thought from the specific lens of holism is unique, even experienced philosophers may have some questions about particular concepts presented, and may want to engage in further discussion to clarify.
Those not used to reading philosophy texts will probably need more time to process certain ideas. But depending upon one’s background some may take to the content readily and want more! Those versed in yogic philosophy, other mystic paths, and various religious teachings will also find definite parallels in the text. Holistic health practitioners, readers who have investigated Jungian psychology, alchemical symbolism, shamanism, or other systems that draw on the intersections of art/imagery and thought will find further support for what they have already learned.
Another option which may appeal to some, is to take the live intensive workshop which will be planned a later date, after the first few online courses are offered. This alternate format will emphasize the experiential dimension of a holistic personal practice, while also drawing upon ancient theory.
Do you plan to do live meetings and trainings?
The course may later be offered in a traditional university setting, but will continue to be available online in order to reach a broader audience outside of an academia. If there is a demand for it, live discussion groups may also be scheduled for those who have already taken the online course or read the text.
In the case of the live intensive workshops, the intent is that these focus upon the experiential dimension rather than academic theory. This format will draw upon key ideas from the book, as well as incorporate other techniques toward developing a multi-sensory practice centered around the cultivation of a holistic mindset. They are designed to be hands-on in nature and absolutely must have a live component. Those who prefer to dive right in and explore in-depth theory later may prefer to take this route first. Most likely the first upcoming live workshops will be held in northern and southern California since that’s closest to the instructor’s own location. At any rate this format will not commence until after the book launch and first online courses are held.
Once the level of interest is determined, workshops can be planned in other areas where there is sufficient demand. As an instructor and holistic practitioner, I love live interaction facilitating personal development, and look forward to meeting people who are interested in the material at upcoming events.