Saturday, February 2, 2008

Practical Philosophy

The folks at The School of Practical Philosophy are really quite keen on that Practical bit. They give you practices. In the first week, we got and did a thing called "The Exercise", and have done it again in the second and third classes. It's also on eight-and-a-half-by-eleven in our binders, and additionally printed on a special card. Here it is:

We were supposed to be doing it twice a day for the last two weeks. Today we did a new practice which is called The Pause. It's like The Exercise but shorter. You're supposed to be still for a moment and focus on one sense. It's a sort of micro-meditation, and well-named besides.

The main content of this class was "Levels of Awareness", although we spent a lot of time discussing attachment and sharing personal stories of trying to apply the question "What would a wise person do?" Some people shared things that I would probably have considered too private to bring out in that environment. Anyway, here are the levels of awareness from my notes:
  • Higher states of consciousness
  • Fully awake
  • Awakening consciousness
  • Waking sleep
  • Dream
  • Deep sleep
It was claimed that most people spend most of their allegedly awake time at the "waking sleep" level.

I had to run part of the way through Central Park to get there on time, but I did, and this time I chose to go back to the room and teacher (Roland) from my first week. He's a private school administrator, seems a little like Mr. Rogers, and is a wonder just to watch for his teacherly demeanor. Today I was particularly impressed with how he handled a participant's wildly off-topic response to a question. Without ever losing a beat he addressed the response positively, affirming the speaker, and then gently returned to the question he had actually asked. My response as a teacher in that situation might easily have been wide-mouthed and probably insulting flabergastion.

One weirdness from the day: several times Roland spoke of something taking multiple lifetimes, in a way that could be purely colloquial or could indicate a literal belief in reincarnation. Is that a part of the school's curriculum, I wonder?

Subway Philosophy
Week One
Week Two
Week Three


Anonymous said...

Hello, I am reading all your posts. I have a keen interest in this a bit leary of it. Have they mentioned "the work" or the ideas of Gurdijieff? I have studied these for the past several years and have found many of the exercises and ideas to be very helpful.However, A former member of this school has moved to my area, and has started a very inclusive group and instructed the "students" not to talk to anyone about what they are doing, and not to read anything or look online. Everything is quite secret. They have started their own farm, and are selling a CD to listen to that supposedly takes you into enlightenment in a year (for about $8,000!) Just listen.........takes out half the work. They do not mention the CD until you have been there for a long time. They do have a leader, and followers and have a school for children. I am not sure what you have to do to "buy" yourself into the commune. The teacher did take classes at the New York School for many years and says that this is related to the New York School. He held open classes for a while, then decided that only a select few are actually ready to study with him. At any rate, I will continue to check your blogs. It is great information. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I was curious about the school and your experience and enjoyed your review. I see that is stops after week three did you continue and if not why not?

Unknown said...

I think I missed week four, went to week five but didn't write about it, and then didn't go again. I didn't feel I was getting anything valuable out of it. I had hoped that they would present a coherent, cohesive philosophy, and they didn't. Far too much was given without any explanation or rationale whatsoever, just offered as 'true'. I'm the type of guy who wants to see how a philosophy handles such things as the very existence of an external world, and this type of thing just wasn't addressed. I was looking for a philosophy well reasoned from foundations, but there just wasn't any reasoning and very little philosophy either, for that matter. I didn't feel like I could buy into the school as having any real philosophy, and I didn't feel a connection to the social aspect they tried to promote during their little snack breaks. It didn't help that the location was a little annoying to get to on Saturday mornings either. :)