The Middle Path

Thesis                     Synthesis                Antithesis
Birth                           Life                       Death
Being                       Becoming                Nothing
Apollo                     Hermes                   Dionysus
Centripetal               Static                    Centrifugal
Active                     Neutral                   Passive
Positive                  Ambivalent              Negative
Left                           Centre                    Right
Upper                       Middle                   Lower
Manic                      Normal                   Depressive
Excessive                 Balanced                Deficient
Hot                          Warm                      Cold
Acid                        Neutral                    Alkali
Red                           Purple                    Blue
White                         Gray                      Black

1 + 2 = 3

[...] every tension of opposites culminates in a release, out of which comes the "third." In the third, the tension is resolved and the lost unity is restored.

It presents itself in a form that is neither a straight “yes” nor a straight “no.”

[C. G. Jung]
'A Psychological Approach to the Dogma of the Trinity' (CW 11)
and, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (CW 9), par. 285

In Hegel, the term Aufhebung has the apparently contradictory implications of both preserving and changing, and eventually advancement (the German verb aufheben means "to cancel", "to keep" and "to pick up").

The tension between these senses suits what Hegel is trying to talk about. In sublation, a term or concept is both preserved and changed through its dialectical interplay with another term or concept. Sublation is the motor by which the dialectic functions.

Sublation can be seen at work at the most basic level of Hegel's system of logic. The two concepts Being and Nothing are each both preserved and changed through sublation in the concept Becoming. Similarly, determinateness, or quality, and magnitude, or quantity, are each both preserved and sublated in the concept measure.


A thought is affirmed which on reflection proves itself unsatisfactory, incomplete or contradictory, which propels the affirmation of its negation, the antithesis, which also on reflection proves inadequate, and so is again negated.

In classical logic, this double negation ("A is not non-A") would simply reinstate the original thesis. The synthesis does not do this.

It has "overcome and preserved" (or sublated) the stages of the thesis and antithesis to emerge as a higher rational unity.

[Lloyd Spencer and Andrzej Krauze]
Hegel for Beginners

Hegel's overriding impulse was to comprehend all dimensions of existence as dialectically integrated in one unitary whole. 

In Hegel's view, all human thought and all reality is pervaded by contradiction, which alone makes possible the development of higher states of consciousness and higher states of being. Each phase of being contains within itself a self-contradiction, and it is this that serves as the motor of its movement to a higher and more complete phase. 

Through a continuing dialectical process of opposition and synthesis, the world is always in the process of completing itself. Whereas for most of the history of Western philosophy from Aristotle onward, the defining essence of opposites was that they were logically contradictory and mutually exclusive, for Hegel all opposites are logically necessary and mutually implicated elements in a larger truth. 

Truth is thus radically paradoxical.

[Richard Tarnas]
The Passion of the Western Mind, p. 379

Since "one" and "two" were considered by ancient mathematical philosophers to be the parents of numbers, then their firstborn, "three," the Greek Triad, is the first and eldest number. 

The birth of the number 3 and triangle enables opposites to balance and transcend to a new wholeness they couldn't achieve by themselves.  

A third leg makes a tripod stable, and a third strand of hair allows a braid to knot as one whole, just as neutral judges balance opposing parties, neutrons balance atoms, and the Supreme Court plays the role of the balancing, transcendent third force between the Executive and Legislative branches. The triangle is the strongest and most stable of shapes and so appears in the constructions of humans and nature.  

Speak aloud the word "three" in English [...] and you'll hear its relation to words like "through" and "threshold" and the prefix trans ("across," "penetrate"). The leap to "three," as its linguistic root tells us, takes us over a threshold and through past polarized limits of the Dyad.

[Michael S. Schneider]
A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe, p. 39
and 'Number and Shapes: The Timeless Alphabet of Art and Life'

Homeostasis is the property of a system in which a variable (for example, the concentration of a substance in solution, or its temperature) is actively regulated to remain very nearly constant.


Maimonides [taught] that an intelligent person should live a life based on reality, on what is true and false, while the average person who lacks the ability to do so should live according to “necessary truths,” morality.

Maimonides makes it clear in his Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot De’ot 1:4 and 5, that the moral “middle path” is the “necessary truth,” the guidance given to the general public who are not capable of evaluating every occurrence in their lives and making decisions each time how they should act based on reason, on what is true and false.

[He] introduces the concept of the “golden mean” and advises people to live a life in which they behave according to a middle path between two extremes.

For example, people should not be overly stingy nor should they be spendthrifts; they should not laugh excessively nor be sad and dispirited. He calls this derekh hachakhamim, “the path of the wise.”

[On the other hand] the ideal path, the method for the intellectual, is “the virtuous way,” the carefully considered rational behavior beyond the middle path, when reason dictates the need for such behavior.

An individual who is very careful about himself deviates somewhat from the mean to either side, and is called 'virtuous'. For example, the individual who distances himself from pride and turns to the other extreme and becomes very humble – this is the virtuous quality. If he only moves toward the middle and is humble, [whilst this is] not the best behavior, it is still considered wise behavior, [thus the individual] is called 'wise.' 

The virtuous people of old would arrange their behaviors away from the middle path toward the two extremes. There were times when the behavior would veer toward one extreme, while there were times when the behavior would veer toward the other. This is behavior that is beyond the legal requirement. We are required to take the middle paths.

Both the essential truth of morality and the real truth advocate proper conduct. However, the essential truth focuses only on what the average person is capable of doing, morality. The difference between the two can be seen in the example presented by Maimonides in his Hilkhot De’ot.

The average person following morality is advised to follow the middle path for it is easier than having to analyze every situation independently, while intellectuals, who are capable of using reason and considering the “true” results of their behavior, are told to deviate when advisable from the middle path.

[Israel Drazin]
'An Intelligent Person is not Moral' (minor adjustments have been made to the original text)

I feel I’ve been very fortunate in life and I think I have about the most even temperament of anyone I know.

I literally don’t have unhappy days. I’ve always felt pretty happy. I suspect my peak happiness is well below that of most people. When I see people very, very happy it’s quite strange to me - I feel I’ve never felt this. The same when people are depressed.

I think my range is compressed.

[Tyler Cowen]
'Tyler Cowen on Rationality, COVID-19, Talismans, and Life on the Margins | The Tim Ferriss Show'

Baker Roshi, during a little talk one day, remarked that ordinarily in our culture we have only two ideas: either we express or we repress. Either one represses anger, or one expresses it. For example, it could be said that Richard Strauss is repressing certain negative emotions, whereas punk rock is expressing them.

But expressing is not any more admirable than repressing. The Western man or woman lives in a typical pairing of opposites that destroys the soul. Either we defeat Communism or we are defeated by it. Either a man dominates women or he is dominated by them.

Joseph Campbell describes the two opposites as two horns; and if we get hooked on either, we die.

[Robert Bly]
A Little Book on the Human Shadow, p. 56

[...] living beauty spreads her golden shimmer only when soaring above a reality full of misery, pain, and squalor [...] all experience goes to show that beauty needs her opposite as a condition of her existence.

"Whenever we turn our gaze in the the ancient world, we find taste and freedom mutually avoiding each other, and Beauty establishing her sway only on the ruins of heroic virtues.

If then we keep solely to what experience has taught us hitherto about the influence of Beauty, we cannot certainly be much encouraged in the development of feelings which are so dangerous to the true culture of mankind; and we should rather dispense with the melting power of Beauty, even at the risk of coarseness and austerity, than see ourselves, for all the advantages of refinement, consigned to her enervating influence."

[...] under no circumstances can the initial value of the higher form of energy be attained by the lower forms as well or be resumed by the superior function: an equilization at some intermediate level must inevitably result. For every individual who identifies with his one differentiated function, this entails a descent to a lower value as compared with the initial value.

This conclusion is unavoidable. All education that aspires to the unity and harmony of man's nature has to reckon with this fact.

[C. G. Jung, also Friedrich Schiller (in quotations)]
Psychological Types, p. 84-6

If development proceeds well the individual becomes able to deceive, to lie, to compromise, to accept conflict as a fact and to abandon the extreme ideas of perfection and an opposite to perfection that make existence intolerable.

Capacity for compromise is not a characteristic of the insane.

The mature human being is neither so nice nor so nasty as the immature. The water in the glass is muddy, but is not mud.

[D.W. Winnicott]
Human Nature, p. 138

Iphigenia sees her role in life as that of “making men mild.” 

She is always encouraging people to calm down and be merciful. She is committed to love, but a love marked not by wild passion, but by understanding, sympathy and a desire for harmony [...]

Goethe's first audiences, brought up on Romanticism, were slow to get the message. Was Goethe turning his back on Romantic love? Where was all the passion? They described the story of Iphigenia as like “watching grey mist.”

Goethe, now in middle-age, was undaunted. He’d had enough of Werther and expressed his own view emphatically – “Romanticism is sickness, Classicism is health.” 

But he encountered an elemental cultural problem: Romanticism feels more exciting. Goethe pinpointed one of the central problems of culture: how to make things that are good for us compete successfully for attention with the thrilling passionate stuff?


Taoists believe that a meaningful life, the optimally meaningful life, is to be found on the border between chaos and order. 

And I would say that your nervous system tells you exactly when you are there and it’s a kind of place and you can tell when you’re there because you’re secure enough to be confident, but not so secure that you’re bored and you’re interested enough to be awake but not so interested that you’re terrified. 

And when you’re in a state like that, you find things interesting and meaningful, time slips by you and you’re no longer self-conscious.

[Jordan Peterson]
'Reality and the Sacred'

The thing is, when I'm balanced I'm not here, and I don't like not being here. I like to feel myself rubbing against things.

In the revisional concept of psychoanalysis in his first book, Perls called Friedlaender's polar philosophy "differential thinking" and considered it to be a "mental precision tool", since it can find the point of "predifference", as he also refers to creative indifference, as well as the zero-point, the center from which balancing equilibrium is possible and

"we could find a point from which the observer could gain the most comprehensive and undistorted view [...]

By remaining alert in the centre, we can acquire a creative ability of seeing both sides of an occurence and completing an incomplete half. By avoiding a one-sided outlook we gain a much deeper insight into the structure and function of the organism"

The center is a "magical" word for Friedlaender; likewise, for Perls, "to center one's existence", or centering, is the most basic goal of therapy, because we "acquire a creative ability of seeing both sides of an occurence" [...]

[Ludwig Frambach, quoting Fritz Perls]
Creative License: The Art of Gestalt Therapy, p. 121

Friedlaender's “creative indifference" [...] became for Fritz Perls the “fertile void” [...] the usual meaning-making process of polar differentiation is set aside in a state of pure being, through a deliberate act of polar indifferentiation. The closer we come to simply being, the more we open a space in which fresh possibilities can arise.

The fertile void or place of creative indifference is the ground. The goal of Gestalt process is to “lead increasingly from the one-sided fixation [on] that which is in the foreground to the ground, from the periphery to the middle and center, by way of integrating rigid dualities into flexible polarities” 

Poles such as rage and gentleness "should not be isolated from each other as mutually exclusive contradictions, but should be experienced as a unit of opposites" [...]

It is possible to achieve this perspective by being "flexibly centered in [one's own] indifferent center." In this way, one can react freely and appropriately, either angrily or with gentleness, to the demands of the situation from a totality of experience.

Friedlaender’s goal, as Perls saw it, was the achievement of this lovely neutrality in which one no longer feels pulled toward one extreme or the other and is no longer the prisoner of one way of seeing the world, which inevitably blinds one to other possibilities.

[Herb Stevenson, quoting Ludwig Frambach]
'Paradox: A Gestalt Theory of Change'


As an empirical concept, the self designates the whole range of psychic phenomena in man.

Just as conscious as well as unconscious phenomena are to be met with in practice, the self as psychic totality also has a conscious as well as an unconscious aspect.

Empirically, the self appears in dreams, myths, and fairytales in the figure of the "supraordinate personality", such as king, hero, prophet, saviour, etc., or in the form of a totality symbol, such as the circle, square, quadratura circuli, cross, etc.

When it represents a complexio oppositorum, a union of opposites, it can also appear as a united duality, in the form, for instance, of tao as the interplay of yang and yin, or of the hostile brothers, or of the hero and his adversary [...]

Empirically, therefore, the self appears as a play of light and shadow, although conceived as a totality and unity in which the opposites are united. Since such a concept is irrepresentable - tertium non datur - it is transcendental on this account also.

[C.G. Jung]
Psychological Types (CW 6, 1991), p. 460


This is the force which moves development along. Piaget believed that cognitive development did not progress at a steady rate, but rather in leaps and bounds.

When a child's existing schemas are capable of explaining what it can perceive around it, it is said to be in a state of equilibrium, i.e. a state of cognitive (i.e. mental) balance. 

However, an unpleasant state of disequilibrium occurs when new information cannot be fitted into existing schemas (assimilation).

Equilibration is the force which drives the learning process as we do not like to be frustrated and will seek to restore balance by mastering the new challenge (accommodation). Once the new information is acquired the process of assimilation with the new schema will continue until the next time we need to make an adjustment to it.

[Saul McLeod]
'Jean Piaget'

Assimilate - will fit into existing order - no change - dominate (change other)
Accommodate - will not fit into existing order - change - capitulate (change self)

Popper envisioned science as progressing by the successive rejection of falsified theories, rather than falsified statements. Falsified theories are to be replaced by theories that can account for the phenomena that falsified the prior theory, that is, with greater explanatory power. 

For example, Aristotelian mechanics explained observations of everyday situations, but were falsified by Galileo's experiments, and were replaced by Newtonian mechanics, which accounted for the phenomena noted by Galileo (and others). Newtonian mechanics' reach included the observed motion of the planets and the mechanics of gases. The Youngian wave theory of light (i.e., waves carried by the luminiferous aether) replaced Newton's (and many of the Classical Greeks') particles of light but in turn was falsified by the Michelson-Morley experiment and was superseded by Maxwell's electrodynamics and Einstein's special relativity, which did account for the newly observed phenomena.

At each stage, experimental observation made a theory untenable (i.e., falsified it) and a new theory was found that had greater explanatory power (i.e., could account for the previously unexplained phenomena), and as a result, provided greater opportunity for its own falsification.


Unqualified freedom, like unqualified tolerance, is not only self-destructive but bound to produce its opposite - for if all restraints were removed there would be nothing whatever to stop the strong enslaving the weak (or meek).

So complete freedom would bring about the end of freedom, and therefore proponents of complete freedom are in actuality, whatever their intentions, enemies of freedom.

[...] the maximum possible tolerance or freedom is an optimum, not an absolute, for it has to be restricted if it is to exist at all. 

The government intervention which alone can guarantee it is a dangerous weapon: without it, or with too little, freedom dies; but with too much of it freedom dies also. We are brought back to the inescapability of control [...] the maximum freedom is a qualified one [...]

[...] the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

[Brian Magee]
Popper, p. 80-2

[Derrida's] essay on Levinas [...] takes an epigraph from Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy.

'Hebraism and Hellenism - between these two points of influence moves our world. At one time it feels more powerfully the attraction of one of them, at another time of the other; and it ought to be, although it never is, evenly and happily balanced between them' [...]

It is the desire to reconcile oppositions and differences through a movement of thought that would finally reduce them to aspects of a single, comprehensive vision.

[...] Derrida's epigraph from Arnold carries a considerable weight of implied ideology.

It stands for that power of logocentric thinking to absorb all differences into itself by viewing them as mere stages or signposts on the way to some grand conceptual synthesis.

[Christopher Norris]
Derrida, p. 230-1

There is no 2D slice of a 3D object that gives a real sense of what it is. Neither is any 2D negotiation of slices going to yield something in 3D.

[A] cylinder is not somewhere between the two reductionistic views: 50% circle, 50% rectangle… It is 100% of both descriptions…which are only mutually exclusive and paradoxical if they are trying to be reconciled in the same plane, which is the essential mistake.

In the higher dimensional reality the object actually lives in, the simultaneous full truth of both partial descriptions is obvious and non-paradoxical…as is the seamless way they fit together as parts of a congruent whole.

The key insight is recognizing these differing perspectives as orthogonal to each other rather than opposite ends of a gradient spectrum. The gradient view leads to a middle path that in this case is the rounded rectangle (or a continual maddening flip flop between circle and rectangle) … completely failing to recognize the simultaneous fullness of each truth and the irreconcilability of them within the same level of dimensionality/ complexity.

The recognition of orthogonality…gives us the cylinder, recognizes both lower dimensional perspectives as 100% true from their limited vantage point, and forces the recognition that a congruent picture is possible but requires a fundamentally more complex kind of perspective.

Looking at some of what have often been thought of as existential dualities:

- Loving what is or working to make things better…
- Accepting ourselves as we are unconditionally or aspiring to grow and express more of our full potential…
- Maximizing intentionality or following the flow of life…
- Bettering our individual ego or transcending it…
- Free will or determinism…
- Being in the now or planning for the future…
- Increasing witness consciousness or losing oneself in experience…
- Open mindedness or critical thinking…
- Persistence or surrender…
- Boundaries or allowing…
- Being or becoming…
- Freedom or structure…
- Gratitude or desire…
- Rights or responsibilities…
- Agency or communion…
- Particle or wave descriptions of the quantum…
- The fundamentality of subject or object…

All of these, commonly seen as paradoxes to be embraced or extremes to find a middle path between…are indeed orthogonal and equally fundamental partial truths…to be simultaneously optimized…fully reconciled in a congruent understanding of the higher dimensional (eg, more complex) nature of reality.

[Daniel Schmachtenberger]
'Higher Dimensional Thinking, the End of Paradox, and a More Adequate Understanding of Reality'