How are the courses run?
A tutor presents material, and leads a discussion based on what arises. Being practical rather than academic, the emphasis is on knowledge realised by the student him or herself. Students are encouraged neither to accept nor to reject the philosophical ideas presented, but to test them in practice for themselves, in the light of their own experience.
In this way the week between classes becomes a learning opportunity. As the course continues, the most vivid and valuable part of the session is often sharing what has been observed in daily life in between each class. As in so much of life, you get out of it what you put in.
Who are the students?
Our students come from around the world and represent a broad spectrum of people from all walks of life. This diversity holds true for all School locations.
Do I get an academic credit or certificate?
This is not intended to be an academic course and there are no exams or certificates.
What if I can’t manage to come every week?
Each evening is self-contained. We naturally encourage regular attendance as it is a continuing conversation week to week, but progress with the course does not necessarily depend on attendance every week. Each week the tutor gives a brief recap on the previous week and we provide detailed hand-outs capturing the key points in the class. If you can’t attend it’s always appreciated by the other students if you can let us know in advance, by phone or email.
Will the course give me a good basic understanding of all the main philosophical traditions and approaches?
The course doesn’t aim or claim to cover all the main philosophies or philosophers. Instead it draws on those we have found in practice to be helpful in the discovery of happiness and truth. We hope that you will learn about some of the world’s great philosophers and teachers from both east and west, including Socrates, Plato, Confucius, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Epicurus, Emerson, Shankara, Vivekananda and many others.
Am I expected to go along with everything I hear on the course?
No - In fact, we ask that you neither accept nor reject any of the philosophic concepts, but rather test them yourself in the light of your own experience. We would rather you try it out and respectfully question what you don't understand or where you disagree.
Is what we discuss in these groups confidential?
You will probably want to tell friends and family about your experience on the course. Where possible, we recommend students speak from their own direct experience of what they have personally discovered, experienced or observed, rather than merely repeating what others have said. We do ask that students respect each another’s confidentiality by not discussing outside of the class any personal observations of fellow students.
Am I expected to join or sign up for a long time?
You only enrol one term at a time. Towards the end of term students are invited to re-enrol for the next term. We also run a standing order scheme so fees can be spread over four monthly payments for the current term.
Is the course ‘religious’?
The course is not religious as such and follows no particular religion. It draws on the wisdom of great philosophers and spiritual leaders. It is designed to be suitable for people of all faiths and those who follow no particular faith.
I’m receiving treatment for my mental health. Can the philosophy course also help me?
The philosophy course is open to all but it does not provide an alternative to mental health treatment – this should be discussed in private with your medical professionals.
How are your course fees used?
Course fees are kept to a practical minimum. They are used to cover our running costs, which mainly consist of rent, advertising and printing. The UK School owns several buildings from which we run residential courses; namely Waterperry House in Oxfordshire and Nanpantan Hall in Loughborough. Purchase of these buildings has been funded by donations and legacies over many years from students wishing to support the aims of the School and with the means to contribute in that way.
Can I pay my fees by easy monthly payments instead of a one-off fee?
If you would like to continue after the first term, we offer the option of paying by monthly standing order. Our students often prefer easy payments by standing order and it leaves them in full control, as they are able to arrange it with their bank and stop it at any time having paid for the current term.
Can I have the group’s email addresses?
You are naturally free to share your contact details with other members of the group if you wish. However, we are required to follow data protection law in respecting our students’ privacy by not sharing their names or contact details with anyone else including other students in their class.
The School has come in for some criticism over the years. Why’s that?
The School has been around for over 80 years and, yes, like many organisations, it has been the subject of criticism in different places and at different times. Practices such as meditation haven’t always been as ‘mainstream’ as they are today and have in the past been viewed with some suspicion. In 1983, a book by two journalists alleged, among other things, that the School was a secretive, cult-like organization. Other allegations have been made from time to time.
Understandably, criticisms like this can be quite upsetting for our students. We would say first that they greatly misrepresent the aims and activities of the School, secondly that the School today has developed and adapted itself to modern times and is a different organisation than it was in the different era of the 1970s and 1980s. We acknowledged too that the criticisms 30 - 40 years ago served a useful purpose in alerting us to the need for openness and transparency and the need to provide more information about our courses and associated activities. That is one reason why this booklet has been drawn up. We also encourage students to give feedback so we can learn from any difficulties people have found. We make every effort to have open discussion and clear information, through our website and in forums which bring together other organisations sharing our interest in building a better, more harmonious world, with justice for all. We are a registered charity; we fully respect and comply with all the legal requirements of a charity including producing an annual report and accounts to the Charity Commission, and we provide public liability and employers’ liability insurance and comply with all the health and safety and data protection requirements expected of all organisations like ours.
We ask only that our students judge for themselves whether what they learn here is of use to them and possibly their family, friends and community. Experience has taught us how easily things can be misunderstood or misinterpreted, so do please speak to your tutor if you have any concerns or questions. We would really appreciate any opportunity to provide clarification and avoid misunderstandings.
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 and that you let your tutor know at an early stage if you are experiencing any difficulties. Of course, from time-to-time, someone may find the course is just not for them or a change in circumstances prevents them from attending. We have a no-quibble refund policy so even after two weeks you can get a full refund. Thereafter refunds would be offered on a pro-rata basis.
What is Mantra-based Meditation?
This is an ancient practice which gradually helps to bring about inner peace, harmony and clarity of mind and to release fine energy for practical use in daily life. It originates in a centuries-old tradition that arose in India and was adapted to be given to people in the West at the end of the 1950s. It is suitable for people of any age, disposition or background. In the early 1960s, contact was made with one of the great teachers in the tradition of meditation, who was then the Shankaracharya of northern India, Maharaja Shri Shantananda Saraswati gave us a great deal of useful advice on the practice. The simple awareness exercise introduced on the first day of the course, as well as being effective and helpful in its own right, is also a useful preparation for anyone wishing to meditate.
Is meditation a religion?
Meditation is not a religion and involves no set of beliefs or creeds – although meditation techniques are used by some religions. Many who practise meditation often find that with time it leads to a greater appreciation of the true, undifferentiated essence as expressed in the world’s great teachings, including religious teachings.
What are the benefits of meditation?
The effect of the proper practice of meditation may be seen in an increase of enthusiasm; greater efficiency in work; steadiness in thought and action; strength of character; increased happiness, regardless of success or failure; greater wisdom in all aspects of life. The method of meditation is very powerful and effective. It is most effective when it becomes a regular part of life. As the practice deepens you gain greater insight into your self - not just your own individual personality, but the nature of being.
I already meditate using a different technique. Can I join the New Meditators Group if I use this instead of using the method practised in the School?
The mantra-based method of meditation is a fundamental part of the School’s approach from Part 6 onwards and we recommend it is practised twice a day by our students; it is also practised at most group meetings. It is supported by tutorials, specific guidance and group discussion. Because this support relates specifically to mantra-based meditation, it would be impractical for people to be using a variety of methods. So, in the School we prefer to keep it simple and use one ‘tried and tested’ method of meditation only. This method is efficient, effective and fully compatible with our western lifestyle.
Do you run online classes?
Yes we do run online classes for those who are too far away from a centre or are unable to attend in person – see : https://practicalphilosophyonline.org/about/
Where can I park near the course venue?
Please see our website for parking details and also other travel information.
If all the tutors are themselves in philosophy groups, who is the senior tutor?
The senior tutor in the School is currently Mr Donald Lambie, a qualified barrister.