The Introductory Course consists of a series of modules, each presented over 10 sessions.
Each module stands on its own, so students can join anytime in the cycle. Depending on numbers enrolling new students may join existing students who have been attending for one or more terms.
As an example, the module Philosophy and Wisdom consists of the following sessions:
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.
Other modules include:
Philosophy & Happiness, covering
- 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
Philosophy and Love, covering
- 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
Philosophy and Presence of Mind, covering:
- Being Present
- Nectar from Poison - with philosophy it is possible to extract something valuable even from adverse situations
- Absolute Presence - consideration of the philosophic and practical differences between absolute and relative existence
- Plato's analogy of the cave
- The Power of Thought - considering what powers are available in the present moment. We will also discuss mindfulness as it has appeared in recent times in the West
- The Power of Decision, and how to use that power well.
- The Power of Love. We will consider both how that may expand and how it is restricted.
- The Power of Will
- The Sovereign Self, the Self to which the powers of thought, decision, love and will belong. We will also speak about meditation as it is offered in the School.
- Give What You Lack, as a practical way of expanding the experience of the present.
Philosophy and Freedom, covering:
- Freedom, Truth and Love
- Freedom and the Play of Life
- Freedom of Speech
- Dialectic and Freedom
- The Journey to Freedom
- Emotional Freedom
- Freedom and the Heart
- Valuing Freedom
- Freedom from Tyranny
- Freedom and Humanity
- Freedom and True Being