How is the course run?
A tutor presents material, and leads a discussion based on what arises. Being practical rather than academic, the emphasis is on personal experience and discovery. Students are encouraged neither to accept nor reject the ideas put forward, but to test them in practice for themselves, in the light of their own experience.
In this way, for those who wish, the whole week between classes can become a learning opportunity.
As the course continues, the most vivid and valuable part of the evening meetings is often sharing what has been seen in daily life between individual sessions.
Do I need any previous qualifications?
No. The course is intended for everyone, regardless of education, occupation, race, political or religious belief.
What does ‘practical philosophy’ mean?
The course is practical in the sense that it is designed to be of direct use in our everyday lives. The intention is to stimulate enquiry and through this expand the way we look at the world and ourselves, conferring happiness and freedom.
What do I need to bring with me?
Just an open and enquiring mind, and an interest in discovering more about yourself. At the end of each evening a handout with key points and any quotations used is provided.
Does the course include the concept of mindfulness?
Throughout the course, great emphasis is placed on the importance of being in the present moment. Exercises and practices are provided to encourage this connection. These increase the value of each weekly session. More generally, they deepen and enrich awareness of the vibrancy of the world around us in our daily lives.
For students staying on after the introductory course, each term includes one practical session we call 'Working Mindfully'. This is an opportunity to work as part of a small team for the evening, applying the principles taught on the course in the serving of refreshments to your fellow students. It has proven a highly valuable and popular addition to our courses.
Does the course include meditation?
There is much focus on the direct experience of stillness as the underlying basis for clear observation and connection with oneself. However, the practice of mantra meditation as such does not form part of the course. Meditation is introduced a few terms later for those who wish it. Over time it becomes an increasingly central practice. Further information is available on the School's main website.
Who are the course tutors?
Our philosophy tutors have all been studying in the School for some time. All have considerable experience of applying the lessons of philosophy to their everyday lives. They come from all walks of life and many different professions. They all share the same love of the philosophy and of passing on what they've discovered so that others can get the most out of their lives. No one in the School is paid for being a tutor.
Will I get a certificate or qualification?
This is not an academic course. There are no exams.
What if I don’t find the course useful?
All we would ask is that you give the course, the practices and your fellow students a reasonable chance (i.e. more than a couple of weeks!) and that you let your tutor know at an early stage if you are experiencing any difficulties.
Of course, from time-to-time, someone really does find the course is just not for them or a change in circumstances prevents them from attending. We are always happy to give a refund for the remaining weeks of the course (no quibbles, our good name in the community is too important for that!)
Is the course ‘religious’?
The course is not religious, but it does address the spirit in mankind. It is designed to be suitable for people of all faiths – and those who follow no particular faith.
Does the School offer further studies in practical philosophy after the introductory course?
Yes, for those who wish. Some people find that the introductory practical philosophy course, which is intended to be of real value in its own right, satisfies their interest. Others want to continue their studies. The School caters for this, offering additional courses and the chance to penetrate further the great questions of life. This can last for another term, another year, or longer. However long or short a time people may wish to study in the School, the hope is that everyone will find something of true and lasting value.
See Follow-on Courses page for more details.
What form do these further studies take?
The basic format of a group discussion remains unchanged.
In terms of content, the next few terms examine the subjects broadly covered in the introductory course in more detail, exploring further ways to make the study practical.
After that, the study increasingly turns to deeper understanding of the philosophy of Advaita. This can go on for as long as the individual wishes. Each term has the capacity to add something of real value to those whose interest persists.
What is ‘Advaita’?
Advaita is the clearest and most systematic expression we have found of the common philosophy that lies at the heart of many of the world's great religions and philosophies. Literally meaning ‘one without a second’, it is a universal philosophy of great breadth. Its most central tenet is everyone and everything are in essence the expression of one consciousness.
A true appreciation of Advaita allows life to be led more fully and richly, conferring greater freedom on the individual and those around him or her. It is designed to bring out the best in everyone, whatever the part they are playing.
A more detailed description of advaita is given on the School's main website.
What if I can't attend every week?
Of course, we encourage regular attendance, but missing one or even two evenings is not normally a problem as each week we give a brief recap of the previous week.
What other materials do you provide?
A weekly handout which captures the key points.
Your fees seem much lower than typical evening classes. Why is that?
You will find these costs compare favourably with evening courses by other organisations. Our School is a not-for-profit organisation and registered educational charity. We have always operated on a voluntary basis and on the principle that no one is paid for, or profits financially from, their work in leading these groups. Your course fees therefore simply cover the cost of hiring rooms, administration, local advertising etc.