The Middle Way Society is an international group, first founded in the UK, for the study, promotion and practice of the Middle Way. For more information about the meaning of the term ‘Middle Way’ as we understand it, please see the Middle Way page.
The aims of the society are as follows:
1. To investigate and promote the Middle Way as a practical and moral philosophy of universal applicability, independent of any appeal to traditional authority and avoiding metaphysical dogma, whether positive or negative.
2. To support all forms of practice that address conditions in a way compatible with the Middle Way.
We intend to support these aims by various activities: blogging and web discussion here; creating audio and audio-visual material; retreats for fuller study and training in the Middle Way; supporting local groups; providing face-to-face talks in different places; promotion and support for publications about the Middle Way. You are welcome to suggest further activities that would further our aims.
We welcome new members and supporters. Anyone who supports the above aims is welcome to join the society, regardless of background or tradition. The key point is not what tradition you come from, but whether you think the Middle Way overrides all appeals to authority in that tradition. For example, you could be a Catholic practitioner of the Middle Way, but only if you are prepared to subject the Church’s teachings to the scrutiny of experience and to lay aside those that are metaphysical (and thus incompatible with judgement based on experience). You might still find the Pope inspiring, but his edicts will need a critical edit function using autonomous judgement. Similar points will apply to those from other traditions: Buddhists, Secular Humanists, Scientific Naturalists, Hindus, Muslims etc.
Membership of the society requires a small donation to support the work of the society, but gives you the right to contribute to decision making in the society. Alternatively you can subscribe to an email list for free to just be kept informed of our activities. See the ‘join us’ page for more details of the advantages of membership, and of how to join.
We are an unregistered charity subject to the regulatory powers of the Charity Commission for England and Wales (registration is not required for charities with income below £5000 per annum). Although for the moment the British charity has international oversight, it was agreed in our Annual General Meeting in August 2014 that further independent (but associated) charities could be formed in other countries to enable the spread of the society internationally. For this to happen we just need a viable membership able to form a new committee in each new country.
A copy of our constitution can be found here: (Amended MWS Constitution 2014) and will be reviewed at each Annual General Meeting. Please contact our secretary with any organisational or constitutional queries.
The Middle Way Society was founded in August 2013, by the agreement of the 5 participants on the Middle Way Study Retreat that took place then in Malvern, England, led by Robert M Ellis. The founding members made contact through the Secular Buddhist UK movement, and although we have some things in common with Secular Buddhists (for example, the practice of meditation), we wanted to move beyond the ‘Secular Buddhist’ label. We wanted to create a society that both has a clearer working philosophy and is universal in scope, taking the Middle Way outside the traditional Buddhist heading and treating it as a genuinely universal principle.
The office holders of the society and other members of the committee (also trustees of the society) are as follows. Their society email address in each case is their first name followed by ‘@middlewaysociety.org’:
Robert M Ellis (chair, main website editor and retreat leader):
Robert is a freelance philosopher and tutor, and for most of his career has earned a living as a teacher or video conference tutor. He has been developing Middle Way Philosophy since 1997, initially from a Ph.D. thesis, and has written a number of books on the subject. He has previously been involved in the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (now Triratna) and was an order member for 4 years before resigning, to seek less traditional ways to practise that do not involve compromises with metaphysics. For some years has been looking for ways to share the insights offered by the Buddha’s Middle Way and apply them beyond the constraints of the Buddhist tradition.
Barbara Mills (secretary)
Barry Daniel (treasurer and podcast editor):
Barry has been a sceptic most of his adult life with what he sees as a healthy suspicion of all things metaphysical. When he came across Robert’s work on the Middle Way in 2012, he felt he had found a coherent articulation of what he has sensed intuitively for a long time (but has been unable to express adequately). He realises that has got a lot to learn about Middle Way Philosophy, however he embraces that challenge enthusiastically. This is because in his mind he feels that moral progress is possible both at an individual and a social level and senses that the Middle Way Society can be an agent for such change. He is presently a guest house owner in the English Lake district, but has been among other things, a sailor, an itinerant busker, a carpenter, a language teacher and a mountain guide – so watch this space.
Peter Goble (membership secretary):
I’m a retired nurse and teacher-practitioner who encountered Buddhism through my twenty years active involvement with the Buddhist Hospice Trust, which brought me into close contact with many Buddhists of all traditions who were close to death – where ‘the metaphysical rubber meets the real-time road’, so to speak.
Being temperamentally rebellious and with a fascination for life’s ambiguities, I resisted joining a traditional Buddhist community, although I eventually developed a Buddhist healthcare chaplaincy role with an interest in Buddhist interpretations of mental health, and how we can survive and grow through mental breakdown. Robert Ellis’s work jolted me out of my intellectual and ‘spiritual’ complacency, and and encouraged me think anew about everything – so much, so much – that I have taken for granted. And to see with new eyes the purpose of MIddle Way practice as applied to contemporary living.
I lived and worked in Africa for many years, a humbling experience in many ways, and a transformative one. My wife and I now live in rustic retirement in Normandy, North-Western France.
Richard Flanagan (in charge of Twitter account and regular poetry posts)
Richard is an Operating Department Practitioner who works within the NHS. He is married with two young children (plus two dogs and a corn snake) and is also currently undertaking an Open University degree in History. Although he does not consider himself to be a Buddhist he is interested in some Buddhist ideas and practices, which he aims to incorporate within his broadly Humanist outlook. He became involved with the Middle Way Society through his involvement with Secular Buddhism UK.
Susan Averbach (ex officio)
Susan Averbach is a secular humanist rabbi and spiritual seeker ordained by the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism (IISHJ). She meditates regularly and has been inspired by a secular modern approach to Buddhism, similar to her humanistic Jewish approach. Although the world of Judaism offers limitless opportunities for learning, the middle way approach adds a dimension that she finds intriguing and beneficial.
Patron Iain McGilchrist, author of ‘The Master and his Emissary’ has kindly agreed to be a patron of the society. For more details see here.
Society contact details: Please use one of the email addresses of the officers of the society above in the first instance. Mail address 130 West Malvern Road, Malvern, Worcs, WR14 4NB, UK. Tel (00 44) 1684 574844.