Has the SES changed?

Discussion of the SES, particularly in the UK.

Has the SES changed since the 70's and 80's?

Seems pretty much the same (70's or 80's member)
3
50%
Seems to have experienced a sea change (70's or 80's member)
1
17%
Seems pretty much the same (current member)
1
17%
Seems to have experienced a sea change (current member)
1
17%
 
Total votes: 6

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Ben W
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Has the SES changed?

Postby Ben W » Tue Apr 04, 2006 1:24 am

Mind the gap... (ie another one I think)

A lot of the discussion on this site leads back to the SES. I think there is general acceptance that SES controls St James. It effectively appoints governors, most teachers are SES, it has a strong influence on the curriculum etc etc.

Over the past few weeks (which is how long I've been actively reading this site) I've observed significant debate around what SES is like today compared to in the 70's and 80's, and before.

I hear from current members - "you have to understand that SES is a totally different place now"... and from past members - "Err, I doubt it".

In parallel with this, in reading the very many postings here which allude to current SES teaching, I am getting a very strong sense of Deja Vu. Measure seems to be alive and well, as does meditation, pausing, Sanskrit, Advaita (actually that is a new term to me, but all that it seems to entail was alive and kicking back in the 70's). I've not read much about calligraphy here - but it wouldn't surprise me to find that is still a strong part of the teaching. And of course, the strong emphasis on natural law, and its link to the sexes.

(My usual caveat - I'm sure I haven't captured all the points, but hopefully you get the drift.)

(at Canberra getting onto a plane, my name has just been called out - time to go. Will add more later... that was a noisy flight - can't believe Quantas get away with those Dash 8's in this day and age. Now in Sydney, damn - left my sunnies in Melbourne...)

Leon's comments against the Graham Skelcey thread re SES being a property developer with free labour from its members also set me thinking - and is another aspect that doesn't seem to have changed (and yes, I acknowledge that current SES members might describe this differently).

One aspect that was a feature of my time at SES but I haven't seen written about here (though I may have missed it) is that when people left they were spoken about in hushed / scandalised tones - no one could believe it had happened - how terrible for them etc. Is this still the case?

There seems to be some unofficial acknowledgement by those SES supporters contributing to this site that something was not right in the 70's and 80's. I'm trying to understand what has changed to eliminate or correct the problems.

So... Given so many things are the same, what is actually different?
Child member of SES from around 1967 to around 1977; Strongly involved in Sunday Schools ; Five brothers and sisters went to ST V and St J in the worst years

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bella
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Postby bella » Tue Apr 04, 2006 4:10 am

I haven't experienced the hushed tones thing when people leave. It's not spoken about in any great detail or anything, but people ask after each other, and pass on info about new life directions, babies, jobs, etc.

The school here recently set up a meditation group on a Friday afternoon/evening for ex-students who don't want to attend the school, or have a regular commitment to any school activities, but who want to meditate with other students on a regular/semi-regular/occasional basis. It doesn't seem to me like there's any underlying sinister motive to lure them back into full-time school stuff or anything, but I'm only an assistant for that group, and didn't have anything to do with the discussions around it - so I can only comment on what I see. It seems like the idea is to support meditation for those who still value it after leaving.

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a different guest
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Postby a different guest » Tue Apr 04, 2006 6:02 am

can't believe Quantas get away with those Dash 8's in this day and age.


remarkably safe planes tho (where is Boeing Driver?).

Ben if you are in Canberra again go to the War memorial and experience the 'bombing run' exhibit in the WW2 section.

Remarkably similar to a trip in a Dash 8! LOL

sorry, OT here.

I don't think it is as harsh as it was, but for people like my relo's who've swallowed everything hook line and sinker, I don't think that much has changed at all!
Relatives with long-term involvement in the SES / SOP/ SoEP

Goblinboy
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Postby Goblinboy » Tue Apr 04, 2006 6:19 am

Ben,
( Dash 8 is bad? My favourites are the turbo-prop SAABs they fly on the runs to Albury and Wagga - almost as slow as driving, complete with complimentary tinnitus).


A quick (and rambling) impression:

The range of views on the SES illustrated on this BB is, perhaps, a good argument for the lack of objectivity in any doctrine, creed, philosophy or whatever.

Essentially, there appears to be a change in media (the way the message is imparted), but not much change in message. The way the message is applied and interpreted varies substantially, depending on individual inclination, level of seniority in the SES, geographical location, among other variables.

For example:

There are those arguing that a more liberal approach to compliance with school teachings prevails (Bella, Chittani, Stanton, etc), while acknowledging the presence of the ?dark suits? and conservative old school members who resist any change. It?s hard to gauge the extent to which they represent the school?s official views ? neither seems to suffer the vanity of ?being in the know? ? a not uncommon trait of influential SES members.

Old school views resonate in the recent material on the Melbourne School posted by Melba - it seems to indicate the ossification of that branch at senior levels. Similarly NYC?s accounts of her experiences in the US indicate that under the surface, the message and its observance haven?t changed substantively.

It seems that the ?material? is updated, and some superficial artefacts of the culture have been liberalised, but the messages are the same. Advaita Vedanta remains the major underlying source of the teaching. Meditation, calligraphy, ?the work?, adherence to Plato, Mozart, (the polite bits of) Shakespeare, Edwardian dress, distinction between male and female roles and much else remain unchanged. The leader is still housed, fed and watered by the school. It?s still a very middle class, predominantly white demographic.

The organisation continues to acquire valuable property with considerable energy. HoHumBug and Gandalf?s postings, if they?re to be believed, are quite extraordinary. It still resists transparency. It resists affiliation with its worldwide parts when criticised, and deliberately affiliates when the need suits. It denies it is a religion, but meets the criteria.

There are members who are deeply irritated by the form, but value the content. There are members who embrace the form to the extent where they can no longer see the content. There are dilettantes and zealots.

Sounds like most faith-based organisations I?ve come across, except for the lack of transparency.

GB

Matthew
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Postby Matthew » Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:32 am

bella wrote:I haven't experienced the hushed tones thing when people leave. It's not spoken about in any great detail or anything, but people ask after each other, and pass on info about new life directions, babies, jobs, etc.

The school here recently set up a meditation group on a Friday afternoon/evening for ex-students who don't want to attend the school, or have a regular commitment to any school activities, but who want to meditate with other students on a regular/semi-regular/occasional basis. It doesn't seem to me like there's any underlying sinister motive to lure them back into full-time school stuff or anything, but I'm only an assistant for that group, and didn't have anything to do with the discussions around it - so I can only comment on what I see. It seems like the idea is to support meditation for those who still value it after leaving.

It should be noted that Bella is referring to the Australian branch, not the UK one which is Ben's reference point for this thread, and where it all started. Perhaps we need to take into account the differences in the various orgs throughout the world when contributing here, and make reference to this.

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bonsai
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Postby bonsai » Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:52 am

Has the SES changed?

Yes and the following are the observations that I have seen.

My parents on a recent residential were allowed to share a room as a married couple instead of being segregated.

I know of a few people who are in groups but never seem to attend and there doesn't appear to be much concern about the attendance levels. (I often wonder why these people are in groups if they have no intention of going)

I have noticed that my parents have been able to excuse themselves more easily from group nights and residentials when family or other commitments demand it.

Finally there are less St James kids joining foundation groups

I don't know how significant people regard these changes but I think that most of these are positive changes. I'm sure I do not know about all the changes and I'm not about to join up to find out what all the changes are either.

I still see plenty of room for further change too. The significant change still required is clarification of purpose and openess of beliefs.

Bonsai

AntonR
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Postby AntonR » Tue Apr 04, 2006 11:01 am

Post deleted
Last edited by AntonR on Wed May 17, 2006 9:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Ben W
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Postby Ben W » Tue Apr 04, 2006 1:29 pm

Anton - you and your family seem to have suffered particularly badly from your experiences in Sydney. It must have been a very difficult time for you.

As far as I can tell, the current UK SES differs from the 70's and 80's as follows:

1. A generally more relaxed attitude
2. A less charismatic leadership
3. A more conservative approach (preserving existing SES traditions rather than building on them)

Is this fair?
Child member of SES from around 1967 to around 1977; Strongly involved in Sunday Schools ; Five brothers and sisters went to ST V and St J in the worst years

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bonsai
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Postby bonsai » Tue Apr 04, 2006 1:59 pm

Ben Wheaton wrote:As far as I can tell, the current UK SES differs from the 70's and 80's as follows:

1. A generally more relaxed attitude
2. A less charismatic leadership
3. A more conservative approach (preserving existing SES traditions rather than building on them)


Ben,

I think much of the change is after the mid 90s after the death of MacLaren.

In reading the Secret Cult I found a description of the SES that was very like the organisation I was in in the early 90s

Bonsai

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bonsai
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Postby bonsai » Tue Apr 04, 2006 2:21 pm

I think I should also add, beliefs wise I do not believe the organisation has changed much at all.

I see little evidence to suggest that the organisation has anything to do with a philosophical debate but seems to continue to pursue and promote their own interpretation of a religion.

Bonsai

chittani
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Postby chittani » Tue Apr 04, 2006 4:59 pm

So far as the substance goes, there has been a considerable change. When I joined in 1987 the material was heavily Gurdjieff-influenced. It was quite psychological in nature. I think that was the tail end of the Gurdjieff stuff. Gurdjieff was the man who said that people who did not come under discipline had no soul.

Since then the Indian influence has predominated. The thing about that is that if you read it yourself - rather than accepting someone else's word or interpretation - it is totally different to the old stuff. I think goblinboy's remark that

Advaita Vedanta remains the major underlying source of the teaching.


is quite mistaken. As Ben confirms, Advaita Vedanta was never mentioned back in the 70s and 80s. Later there was an effort to splice it on to a Gurdjieff root, in the end there are fundamental disagreements. It could be said that the School was saved from itself by chance - it really did meet with a wise man who represented a living philosophical tradition.

The material was rewritten once in the 80s and once in the 90s - I mean the early philosophy course. Personally I had some issues with the 90s material and the sincerity of it. Many schools around the world rejected it - I think about 50% ended up using it - mainly because it had a rather convoluted style. It seemed to be more of a window-dressing exercise than a real liberalisation. Then over the past 3 years it's been rewritten again, far more simply, which I personally find a relief (as a tutor).

But Bonsai's observations are right - there is much less pressure on the students to conform / attend / wear certain clothes / be secretive / be separate. I know of one man who went on a weekend recently and had been told to wear a tie to meetings etc. One of the ladies in his group remarked how uncomfortable he looked, so he took it off and spent the weekend casually dressed. Nothing more was said. You could say that's just stubbornness, but nobody would have got away with it in the past.

These subtle things are much more significant than the actual material, I think.

In general terms I think that only a blinkered opponent of the School, or someone who had no direct experience of it, would agree with the proposition that nothing has changed. That is not the same as saying that it doesn't need to change more.

Probably the most important thing that could happen is a real discussion about what a philosophy school should be like. As part of that I'm going to discuss all of the issues besetting the School at the moment with my students next term.

Jo-Anne Morgan
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Postby Jo-Anne Morgan » Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:27 pm

Probably the most important thing that could happen is a real discussion about what a philosophy school should be like. As part of that I'm going to discuss all of the issues besetting the School at the moment with my students next term.


Well, chittani, if that's what you're going to discuss next term I would really love to be a part of your group as I think it will be very interesting and stimulating.

In general terms I think that only a blinkered opponent of the School, or someone who had no direct experience of it, would agree with the proposition that nothing has changed. That is not the same as saying that it doesn't need to change more.


However, I must say that this talk of change regarding the SES really puzzles me. When I was there, it was more or less drummed into us that the material was 'the truth' and that the overall approach came from the natural laws which are also 'the truth'. If we ventured anything which differed with the material, then these were just 'ideas' which we were encouraged to drop.

That being the case, I can't see why the SES would change anything. If it's the truth, then surely it shouldn't change?

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Ben W
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Postby Ben W » Tue Apr 04, 2006 9:41 pm

Hi Jo-Anne

The following quote was certainly my experience. Questions were encouraged for understanding only. There were various phrases that come back to me from my time there such "'Why?' is the question of the devil!"

Jo-Anne Morgan wrote:When I was there, it was more or less drummed into us that the material was 'the truth' and that the overall approach came from the natural laws which are also 'the truth'. If we ventured anything which differed with the material, then these were just 'ideas' which we were encouraged to drop.

That being the case, I can't see why the SES would change anything. If it's the truth, then surely it shouldn't change?


Chittani,

Would you say that deeper questioning and individual interpretation amongst the "rank and file" (if you'll allow me that term) is tolerated these days?

On Advaita, whilst I agree the word was never used, the Ten Principal Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Geeta were required reading and on every SES member's bookshelf.

Your comments on Gurdjief are interesting. There was mention of him and his disciple Ouspensky a fair amount back then, but it all went over my head. Your comments on Gurdjief and discipline are particularly interesting. Is there anything written on this you can refer me to?

Ben
Child member of SES from around 1967 to around 1977; Strongly involved in Sunday Schools ; Five brothers and sisters went to ST V and St J in the worst years

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Stanton
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Postby Stanton » Tue Apr 04, 2006 10:26 pm

Ben - there is The Fourth Way and In Search of the Miraculous by P.D. Ouspensky. Gurdjieff also wrote and was written about. His life was intriguing to say the least of it. His teaching was based on 'awakening'. Go to any good bookshop (as they say) and you will find. Also use the internet. In London, Watkins bookshop in Cecil Court, WC2 will supply most of your enquiries in the books line.

Your question, Jo-Anne, is spot on. The fault, if any, must lie in the interpretation. By the same token, human understanding is liable to fallibility.

chittani
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Postby chittani » Tue Apr 04, 2006 10:58 pm

Jo Anne

Well, you'd be very welcome as far as I'm concerned, although in practical terms it's probably not going to happen that way! But if you are interested in these issues PM me.

Once again, I have to say that I'm not talking about the School as is, but as it will be. Yes, there is that view of "the Truth". But the fact is that the Vedanta philosophy doesn't support such a view. ALL knowledge that can be put in words or systematised is "lower knowledge". The "higher knowledge" is what the rishi (= seer) sees all around. An alternative view is that of Shantananda who says that the higher knowledge is what appears when there is a conversational meeting of 'chittani', ie 'hearts and minds' with "a common love or purpose". So it's not a case of someone coming along with their wisdom to meet someone else with their ignorance. The wisdom is what may happen in the conversation.

I can well believe your experience of the past, and it's got a lot to do with what happens now as well. But the ice is getting thinner, and sooner or later it will reach a critical point and shatter. What the landscape will look like after the global warming event remains to be seen ...

Ben, I'm not an expert on Gurdjieff at all, and really my dispute isn't with him but with the neo-Gurdjieff experience that so many people went through. Someone told me the other day that a lot of people did go mad under Gurdjieff's system, although how true that is I can't say. He was certainly a character.


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