The Practical Philosophy Introductory Course is presented in 10 sessions referred to collectively as 'Philosophy and Wisdom'. There are many practical exercises on the course which are not mentioned here. The general content of each session is a follows:-
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.
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.
Having completed the Practical Philosophy Introductory Course students are invited to join a Foundation Group studying the following themed Parts. (Not necessarily in this order) One Part per term as follows:
Part 2 - Philosophy & Happiness
Happiness and service
Is happiness natural? Happiness and law
Happiness and utilitarianism
Happiness and pleasure, Epicurus, Aristippus, Plato
The Platonic goods which lead to happiness
An introduction to Marsilio Ficino
Lao Tzu, finding inner equilibrium
Happiness: contentment, Patanjali
Finding happiness in work
Happiness and wisdom
Part 3 - Philosophy and Love
Nature and source of love; its gain and loss
Seeing beyond the apparent. Practice of stillness
Expression of pure love through creation
Pure love through wisdom; attachment and delusion
Discerning truth from the fruit of actions. Overcoming all limits
Expansion and strengthening of pure love. Things that cover pure love
Nature of that which is loved. Transient and changeable
Absence of love and its effect. Nature and effect of gratitude
Love thy neighbour as thyself. Transformative effect of love
Decisions based on true principle. Open heartedness
Causes of duality and hostility
Sacrificial and sentimental love. Human and divine love
Stillness and deeper levels within oneself
Relationship between law and love
Love and work. Constancy between words and actions
Part 4 - Philosophy and Presence
Significance of Presence of mind
Learning takes place in the present
Stillness & unity – power of an unmoving mind
Teachings of adversity - extracting nectar from poison.
Discrimination between substance & form, transient & eternal
The moving mind: circling thought, dream & procrastination
Absolute existence: unlimited, infinite and complete.
Relative existence: changing, transient and dependent.
The power of Thought – As a Man Thinketh, James Allen
What in reality actually is present?
Power of illusion
Coming out of the dark
The difference between form & substance
The 'Now' & absolute existence
Playing one’s part - connecting with the natural rhythm.
The moving part of the mind and the power of thought
Thought under the influence of sattwa, rajas & tamas
The importance of what the mind thinks upon awakening.
The power of decision
Basis for decision making – reason, love, virtue, duty and fear
Decision under the influence of sattwa, rajas & tamas
The Heart and the power of love
Love under the influence of sattwa, rajas & tamas
The Ego and the power of Will
Will under the influence of sattwa, rajas & tamas
Importance of Will being based on reason
Step by step – padam padam (Sanskrit Sutra)
Powers of thought, decision, love and will as universal powers
The self or Atman as the owner of these powers
Mantra Meditation & tradition
Part 5 - Philosophy and Freedom
Freedom, Truth and Love
Freedom and the play of life, going backstage
Freedom of speech, the four levels of speech, meditation
Discussion, dialogue and dialectic.
Journey to freedom, myths, the Odyssey
Freedom and the Heart
Valuing freedom, Guides for living
Freedom from tyranny, the subtle realm of mind
Freedom and humanity, Ubuntu, Sanatan Dharma
Freedom, True being, Meditation
Having studied all the above Parts 2 - 5 students can join the New Meditators Group which would be studying the following themed Parts. At the same time students will be developing and deepening their practice through a traditional method of mantra-based meditation which is suitable for our active and busy lifestyle:
Part 6 - Philosophy and The Way of Action
Part 7 - Philosophy and The Way of Devotion
Part 8 - Philosophy and The Way of Knowledge
Part 9 - Philosophy as a Way of Life
Part 10 - The Law of Three
Part 11 - The Five Kosha - The five types of false identification covering the true Self
Part 12 - Harmony - A philosophical study of the Octave and its significance
(The above picture is from a stained glass window in Winchester Cathedral.)