Course Outline - Introductory term-1A
Our students meet in groups, led by a tutor. This is currently done online using Zoom software. When the Covid-19 threat passes or when government guidelines allow some groups will be available that meet physically. We are monitoring this situation and will advise students when things change.
The emphasis is on discovery rather than theory, observation rather than opinion. You’re encouraged to test what you hear and then share what you experience. The more you practise, the more you get out of the course.
With a wider view, day-to-day life takes on a different and fresher perspective.
We look at the power of the present, how to be more yourself, happiness and its sources, wisdom and its uses, and beauty and its causes.
The course is designed for those eager to make the very most of life, unfettered by the passing show, unchained by the fads of the moment.
It is presented in ten weekly sessions when groups meet physically. However, in its current online format each topic takes two weeks. Therefore Introductory term-1A covers topics 1-5. Introductory term-1B covers topics 6-10. These two terms are referred to collectively as 'Philosophy and Wisdom'.
1. The Wisdom Within - Philosophy means the love of wisdom. Our course is intended to show how philosophy may help us enjoy richer, less stressful and more useful lives. This opening session considers these aims further, and introduces simple exercises in mindfulness and the application of wisdom which can be practised in daily life.
2. Know Thyself - Who am I, really? My body? My emotions? My strongly held beliefs? My soul? Possibly all of these? Possibly none? Such questions have preoccupied philosophers down the ages. We look at practical ways to explore who we really are and how to tap our true potential.
3. Being Awake - Often the most notable quality of wise people is their alertness to the subtleties of a situation. They are awake, perceptive and curious. We look at deeper levels of awareness, and consider how we may become more awake to ourselves, our surroundings, and the events we meet.
4. The Present Moment - We review our own experience of attention through a model featuring attention centred, captured, open and scattered, and how these each relate to the past, present and future. We examine the extraordinary brightness and freedom naturally available in the present moment. A straightforward practice is introduced to help us experience this more frequently.
5. Living Justly - According to Plato, justice and injustice do not start ‘out there’. They begin within ourselves. For justice to prevail, Plato suggests that we must learn to avoid being 'tyrannised' by our passions and fears to the extent they overrule our reason. We discuss the practicality of Plato's ideas on justice in our daily lives.
Course Outline - Introductory term-1B ( this second term follows term 1A above and completes the introductory syllabus )
6. Understanding Energies And Using Them Wisely - Sometimes we seem not to have enough, or the wrong kind, of energy. A wise person can act consistently despite these varying conditions. We consider how to recognise differing energies, how to gain and conserve them and how to use them wisely.
7. The Light of Reason - We look at the philosopher Shankara's notion that reason is the ability to discern the transient from the eternal, the changing from the unchanging. This leads to the question what, in our experience, can actually be said to be unchanging? Suggestions are given to help further consideration of this question during the coming week.
8. The Power of Beauty - Beauty has the capacity to open the heart and bring delight. In this session we discuss our direct experience of beauty in its different form: of the sensory world, of thought, of feelings, of the inner nature, and of conduct. We consider Plato's idea of there being ultimately one beauty - beauty absolute - 'not knowing birth or death, growth or decay'.
9. Unity in Diversity - When we look around, we see enormous diversity in nature. The wise person looks for the unifying factor: that which allows all this apparent diversity to be seen as part of a single whole. Seen in this way, life then has the best chance of being led freshly and openly.
10. The Desire For Truth - Practical philosophy is about discovering the truth of things – not theoretically, but in our own experience. In this final session we look back and ask ourselves how our search for truth has fared as the term has progressed. We discuss what has been discovered and how, in our own way, we may continue to develop it in our daily lives.
Subsequent terms focus on Happiness, Love and Freedom and can lead on to meditation, the differing ways of action, knowledge and devotion; and, importantly, the chance to build on the practices learnt in earlier terms. See Follow-on Courses.