School of Philosophy – introduction

More on the School of Philosophy: Introduction [Week 1] [Week 2] [Week 3] [Week 4] [Week 5] [Week 6] [Week 7] [Week 8] [Week 9] [Week 10]

Many years ago a very old and dear friend from the UK came to stay with us for a while. During his stay we shared many excellent experiences and discussions, including one about ‘The School of Philosophy’ which he had attended back home.

The principles of the school sounded fantastic. My friend told me about an organisation run by volunteers, where teachers are also students, and where all are encouraged to seek greater stillness and self-knowledge by applying techniques learned from various philosophies. I was very interested.

I was also amazed to find the school had a branch here in Perth. I found it odd that anything so cool could be sitting on my own doorstep without me knowing.

I even made some initial attempts to contact the school locally, but nothing came of it and the whole conversation sat dormant…

…many years passed…

…until, last week, I saw an ad for the School’s ‘Introductory Course in Sustainable Happiness’. So I went along. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m going again this week. I’ve been telling people how great it was.

And then I noticed something odd. On the web there are a number of sites, blogs, and discussion boards denouncing the School of Philosophy as a ‘cult’. The School is also hotly debated on Wikipedia. Much as I love Wikipedia, I’ve noticed from direct personal experience it is not a brilliant medium for handling and resolving contested or controversial subjects, and the debate is easily hijacked by a few passionate, misinformed people.

After reading quite a few of these pages, many of the complaints are vague and unsatisfying. They fall into a few main categories.

Circular references

I found lots of posts claiming the School is a cult, from people who have never attended any classes at the School, and who’s opinions are based entirely on comments made by other people on other websites.

Nearly all these comments draw their evidence from a very small number of sources. It’s hard to check these original sources, as most are no longer active on the web, and one is a book, written as an ‘expose’ by a pair of journalists. I could search out a copy of the book, but I’m not sure how reliable it would be.

Vague assertions

I found lots of posts (often anonymous) from people stating they attended some classes and ‘something just didn’t feel quite right’.

This kind of comment is so downright unhelpful, it says more about the person making the comment than about the thing being commented on.

Initiation

There are a number of what appear to be credible comments from people who identify themselves as former students of the school, saying sometime around the second or third year of study they were asked to perform an ‘initiation’ ceremony, kneeling before a picture of ‘the Shankaracharya’.

However, these may also be circular references, or memes, relating back to a particular quote attributed to someone called Wendy Diekstra. It’s just so easy to ‘copy and paste’ on the internet…

So, while my suspicions have been alerted, I’m not completely convinced. Are these a bunch of nice, well-intentioned people, being treated with suspicion because they’re misunderstood? Or are they loony brain-washers coming for me, my money, and my family?

In the true spirit of philosophy, I will go and find out for myself, and post updates here. I hope to have a definitive, first-hand account soon…

More on the School of Philosophy: Introduction [Week 1] [Week 2] [Week 3] [Week 4] [Week 5] [Week 6] [Week 7] [Week 8] [Week 9] [Week 10]

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8 Responses to School of Philosophy – introduction

  1. Pingback: School of Philosophy – week 1 | Jonathan Smith

  2. Pingback: School of Philosophy – week 2 | Jonathan Smith

  3. john peters says:

    very old !? cheeky git . ! Like your page by the way . The Shankaracharya mentioned is now dead but he was the guy who sent Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to London and gave George Harrison and the rest of the Beatles their Meditation Mantra . The ceremony mentioned is a formal occasion when a Mantra is given to a student to settle the mind . It might sound a bit weird but actually it is just a very powerful way to sit still without thinking about other activities that you could be doing.

  4. Hi John! Good to hear from you. I tried getting in touch back when these classes started, but you’re a hard man to get hold of. So, what’s your view?

    • john peters says:

      Hi Jon , only just got this message … my inbox keeps getting smashed by Facebook notifications so i’ve kind of given up on the internet most of the time now.
      Anyway, as far as Philosophy goes I love it … The material constantly interests me , and somehow over time it seems beneficial to see the group’s development along with my own. The Exercise is useful to me on a daily basis because i use it to stop the edges blurring between events , and without it i can get a bit lost in my intricate thought patters ( as always !). The other benefit of the Exercise is that it prepares you for sitting still over a bit more time as they introduce the option for Meditation around the 3rd term . The mantra is great and it even helped me massively when my dad died last year by keeping me more balanced as things got intense.
      How’s it going on your course ? My first few terms were really intense to be fair because i kept getting really angry with the tutor. The Vedic perspective is a bit challenging , but as time goes by the events of life seem to fit in a way that makes me more content with even seemingly disastrous changes . It’s the best way to see how modern life and ancient life were actually peppered with the same sense/nonsense experiences and also I always have a laugh at the classes.
      This term i have had to give it a miss . The classes nearest to me are in York and i can’t afford to get there at the mo so i’m having a break . I will definitely go back when things get sorted out and I would recommend the School to anyone. I definitely need my brain washing as regularly as possible .
      I feel that there’s a lot to say but my typing is so slow that i’m going to have to attend to my householder duties now ! !!!!! Wish we could come over to see you lot but the other side of the world seems a long way off right now .
      Stay funky . jp.

      • Hey John! Yes, we wish you guys could come and visit too! Great to hear from you. This isn’t the right forum for a chat about the family, so I’ll message Queenie.

        Having to travel to York would be a bit of a mission, I’m surprised. You’ve been part of the school for years, why don’t you start a local chapter in Hull?

      • john peters says:

        stoner reality check !

  5. Pingback: School of Philosophy – week 3 | Jonathan Smith

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