Just to bring you up to date with events at The Secret Of Life HQ, our protracted house move is (very slowly) continuing, so as I mentioned previously, I'm still going to be limited to occasional posts only for the time being. Sorry about that. But as the start of a new term is approaching, I do want to grab a few moments to draw your attention to the course in Practical Philosophy For Everyday Living at the School of Philosophy. I've been attending this course for three years now, and I find it to be an invaluable way of staying in touch with the kinds of ideas we've been talking about on this blog. To give you an idea of what it's about, here's a short extract from their latest publicity leaflet:
The basis of the philosophy presented is that there is a common 'consciousness' or 'being' behind everyone and everything and that this is the essence of who we are. This is described as the philosophy of Unity.
The school receives guidance from Sri Shankaracharya from the Holy tradition in India, a person who has realised this wisdom.
Day schools for children, classes for parenting skills, economics and promotion of the Arts are all offshoots of this work.
Tutors are all students too and no one receives payment.
This is not, then, a course in comparative philosophy, but is for those who would like to apply certain philosophical principles to enhance their everyday lives. Though Vedic teachings and their principle of Unity are central, the material draws upon many sources including the ancient Greek philosophers, the Renaissance philosopher Marsilio Ficino, Christian teachings, and Shakespeare. The ideas are presented in the same way as I try to do in this blog: not as inviolable truths which are to be accepted without question but as subjects for consideration and debate. It might be argued that ultimate wisdom lies beyond logic, but if you agree that an inquiring mind is a useful place to begin the journey, then this course may be for you.
The course may also appeal to those who are drawn to some of the ideas we discuss in this blog but are uncomfortable with the 'new age' trappings which sometimes go along with them. Those who prefer a more conventional ambience will find the school to be free of such things as tarot cards and crystals, for instance! It is much more redolent of garden fetes and cricket on the village green. Taking a step inside the school is like stepping back in time by several decades: to an older, politer world in which men still tend to wear suits and ties and address each other by surnames. Some might consider this bizarre enough in itself, but others might find it a welcome oasis of sanity.
(Don't worry - the suits and ties are not compulsory. Well, not so far anyway. After three years, our class remains as informally dressed as ever. Though I do sometimes wonder if we'll turn up one day to find a tailor there waiting for us with a tape measure, ready to fit us all out - and a black bag in which to deposit our scruffy jeans.)
Perhaps the most useful thing about the class are the practical ideas which are suggested each week to take home and apply in our everyday lives. The idea of connecting with one of the senses to come into the present moment (which I wrote about in an earlier post) is one such idea I have taken from the school. Another is the use of the Sanskrit word "netti!", meaning "not this!", which can be applied whenever we are in the grip of negative emotions. As I've previously observed, such emotions can sometimes seem to take us over entirely. To say "netti, netti" or "not this, not this" is a way of reminding ourselves that we are not that emotion. We are something very much grander and more powerful, if only we can remember that. This technique can sometimes take instantaneous effect, springing us out of the emotion and into the calm of the present moment. You might like to give it a try.
If you would like to know more about these classes in Practical Philosophy, here's where to look:
The School of Economic Science runs practical philosophy courses in most parts of the UK and there are links on the site to courses worldwide. Courses in other parts of the UK (including my own) are run by the associated School of Philosophy, which covers Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Nottinghamshire. The School of Practical Philosophy is an associated US site. Though this may vary worldwide, new courses in the UK start three times a year on the basis of the usual academic terms, so the summer term will be starting very shortly. If you decide to give it a try, do let me know what you think...
(Several readers have left comments about various negative experiences of the School of Philosophy. Please see here for their comments (and my responses).)