Janus: A Summing Up

Janus: A Summing Up (1978) is a book by Arthur Koestler, in which he develops his philosophical idea of the holarchy introduced in his 1967 book, The Ghost in the Machine. The holarchy provides a coherent way of organizing knowledge and nature all together. The idea of the holarchy is that everything we can think of is composed of holons (simultaneously both part and whole), so that each holon is always a constituent of a larger one and yet also contains another one within. Every holon is like a two-faced Janus, the Roman god: one side (the whole) looks down (or inward); the other side (the part) looks up (or outward). Each whole is a part of something greater, and each part is in turn an organizing whole to the elements that constitute it. Koestler believed that everything in a healthy system is organized this way, from the human body, to chemistry to the history of philosophy.

Koestler said he adapted his neologism "holon" from the concept of holism, which was introduced by South African statesman Jan Smuts in his 1926 book, Holism and Evolution.


  • Hutchinson, 1978, U.K, hardcover edition ISBN 0-09-132100-X
  • Random House, 1978, U.S. hardcover edition ISBN 0-394-50052-0
  • Picador, 1979, or Pan Macmillan, 1983 UK paperback editions ISBN 0-330-25842-7
  • Vintage Books, 1979, U.S. paperback edition ISBN 0-394-72886-6

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