A holarchy, in the terminology of Arthur Koestler, is a hierarchy of holons – where a holon is both a part and a whole. The term was coined in Koestler's 1967 book The Ghost in the Machine. The term, spelled holoarchy, is also used extensively by American philosopher and writer Ken Wilber.[1]

The "nested" nature of holons, where one holon can be considered as part of another, is similar to the term Panarchy as used by Adaptive Management ecological theorists Lance Gunderson and C.S. Holling.[2]

The universe as a whole is an example of a holarchical system, in which every holarchy is part of a larger holarchy[citation needed]

Different meanings

David Spangler uses the term in a different meaning: "In a hierarchy, participants can be compared and evaluated on the basis of position, rank, relative power, seniority and the like. But in a holarchy each person’s value comes from his or her individuality and uniqueness and the capacity to engage and interact with others to make the fruits of that uniqueness available."[3]

See also


  1. Wilber, K: The Essential Ken Wilber: An Introductory Reader, Shambhala, 1998
  2. Gunderson, L. H. and Holling, C. S. (editors): Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems, Island Press, 2002.
  3. A Vision of Holarchy, Seven Pillars Review
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