Practical Philosophy

Discussion of the SES's satellite organisations in the USA.
Tootsie
Posts: 151
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 1:37 pm

Practical Philosophy

Postby Tootsie » Fri Sep 28, 2012 2:52 pm

An American girl attended the 10 part course that that the Boston branch of the School of Practical Philosophy runs. The class notes and her comments can be found at www.theultimateanswer.org/category/happiness-2 Part one can be found in the archives September 2011. While she did not join at the end of the course it can be seen why people get caught up in this organization. When I have a bit more time I would like to comment on this beginning course because of the importance as to why people think it is all very harmless at the beginning.

Blissfully Sleeping
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Re: Practical Philosophy

Postby Blissfully Sleeping » Sat Sep 29, 2012 9:04 am

The Sydney branch of The School of Philosophy (ex School of Economic Science) has become very proactive in rebadging itself as Practical Philosophy (not The School of Practical Philosophy as other Aussie branches have). A few weeks ago they were advertising 'discount course fees' on Social Living, a Discount/Coupon Website. The link to the Practical Philosophy website does mention it's earlier incarnation as the School of Economic Science. It also acknowledges The School of Philosophy, but not The School of Practical Philosophy or their presently named youth wing, Lucca Leadership. The Practical Philosophy website did provide a link to the New York Practical Philosophy website that now allows unsuspecting seekers to do courses via the web!!! Well, what a tangled web....pardon the pun.

Renshaw and his bunch are clearly following the US model, I guess it makes them look more modern than the lot in Old Blighty.

Interestingly, there is no google heading for "Practical Philosophy cult". While there is for each of the other associated organisations. hmmm.

Blissful

Tootsie
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Re: Practical Philosophy

Postby Tootsie » Tue Oct 02, 2012 7:50 am

The following is a comment made by a pupil who attended the School of Practical Philosophy.


"I attended classes at the school in NYC for several years. I no longer attend.

It's always hazardous to invoke such an emotionally charged word as "cult" when talking about any group. When you come right down to it, any religion or religiously-oriented group could be labeled a cult to one degree or another.

Does SPP have some cultish tendencies? Absolutely -- the awkward formality of longtime members, the eventual separation of men's and women's instruction, the encouragement of men to wear suits and women to wear "modest" outfits, the secrecy about what students can expect to encounter as they progress through the classes, the encouragement (if not outright expectation) of increasing time committed to serving the school and its needs, etc.

Which is the point of my comment -- while I'm not sure I'd go so far as to categorize SPP as a cult, I definitely put in the category of religion or religiously-oriented group. While the earlier class levels seem quite diverse and secular, drawing from various traditions oriental and occidental, as one progresses the points of reference bend, perhaps slowly but unerringly, toward the Vedic tradition. Other sources, be they Buddhist, Christian or secular, are slowly diminished to only being used when they align with the Vedic writings or the teachings of the guru to the school's founder.

I was already beginning to have questions about the group before we were "given" meditation, in a ceremony that can only be described as a religious rite (candles, symbolic gifts to the "masters" who came before, kneeling before an image of the guru, etc). As a recovering Catholic, I resented being ambushed in this way, and the protestations from leaders at the school that they are not a religion rang with hollow defensiveness.

Later, the concept of reincarnation was dropped on our class as a matter of fact. There was no introduction of it in a philosophical context (i.e. "what if..."), but as a fact as obvious as gravity. When I stopped the class (literally, as in "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!") and challenged the instructor on this, she was incapable of any debate or even elaboration -- it was what the material said, it was dogma, it was to be taken for granted as fact, apparently. She seemed, quite literally, unable to conceive that it might not be the truth or even worthy of discussion.

Finally, the early Vedic writings which came to dominate the classes came to be referred to simply as "The Scriptures." Not the Vedic scriptures, but THE Scriptures; the prime source, the logos.

Honestly, I had originally decided to attend the school because I was interested in philosophy and inquiry, and I was saddened as everything bent more and more toward religious instruction, obeisance and conformity. If I wanted that, I'd go back to church.

True philosophical exploration tolerates neither dishonesty nor secrecy.

If SPP wanted to be honest with prospective students, and with themselves, they would rename their organization The Center for Vedic Studies. Anyone considering attending should be prepared for the instruction to eventually take this turn.

Are there things of value I gained from my time there? Sure -- I've become a semi-regular meditator, although I'm not bound by their particular method (which is thinly-disguised TM), I met some very nice people and, following Mr. Edison's argument, I've eliminated one more path that doesn't work. But I have no regrets about leaving, either."
Last edited by Tootsie on Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ManOnTheStreet
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Re: Practical Philosophy

Postby ManOnTheStreet » Tue Oct 02, 2012 10:37 am

1. Cults

Whether or not to consider the SOP/SFSK as a 'cult' is an interesting one. Actually There has argued persuasively against using the word 'cult' in other threads, and I agree with his argument to the extent that it shows the impracticability of using the word in a context such as this forum. On the other hand, the organising principles evident in the SOP/SFSK clearly do satisfy all the criteria present in the definition of a 'cult'. So if the question is: "Is the School a cult?", my answer would have to be "yes", even though I recognise Actually There's qualification about the use of the word.

As far as religions are concerned, it's actually much simpler. All religions (so far as we know) started off as cults. They were, generally speaking, break-away groups from whatever the mainstream doctrines were. Christianity and Buddhism are classic examples. The only real difference between the established religions of today and the cults they used to be is that the established religions have many more followers. To illustrate the point further - if the School had one billion followers across the globe (but retained the same organising principles as it has currently) would you be willing to call it a 'religion'? For my part, I would not - I think that the word 'religion' carries with it unnecessary weight and significance. In fact, any serious study of the early Christian church will reveal that the organising principles therein were not dissimilar to those alluded to by many on this forum when describing the SOP/SFSK.

2.
Tootsie wrote:Later, the concept of reincarnation was dropped on our class as a matter of fact. There was no introduction of it in a philosophical context (i.e. "what if..."), but as a fact as obvious as gravity. When I stopped the class (literally, as in "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!") and challenged the instructor on this, she was incapable of any debate or even elaboration -- it was what the material said, it was dogma, it was to be taken for granted as fact, apparently. She seemed, quite literally, unable to conceive that it might not be the truth or even worthy of discussion.


Yes. This was exactly my experience as well. In fact the simplest way to look at this is to consider whether a statement of Voltaire or Kant (or any other Enlightenment philosopher for that matter) would be presented with the same dogmatic confidence. Of course it would not. If this is so, then you would have to account for the difference in attitude regarding the two situations. The moment you do this, it becomes obvious that most of what the tutors say is just parroted (and unashamedly plagiarised) from sources they are both unaware of and (if they are aware) unwilling to investigate. It is this unwillingness to investigate the validity of core beliefs that separates typical members of a cult from people actively engaged in serious inquiry.

Tootsie
Posts: 151
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Re: Practical Philosophy

Postby Tootsie » Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:09 pm

The following website has a lot interesting comments about SES/SPP both for and against. Its worth a look!
http://secretoflife.typepad.com/the_sec ... philo.html

Blissfully Sleeping
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Re: Practical Philosophy

Postby Blissfully Sleeping » Tue Oct 02, 2012 10:44 pm

Tootsie, the quote you posted above (third post from top) from the ex NYC student was indeed "perfect". It is EXACTLY what I have been trying to say to people, but I haven't been able to communicate my thoughts that succinctly. It is a brilliantly written comment.

Blissful

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morrigan
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Re: Practical Philosophy

Postby morrigan » Wed Oct 03, 2012 7:28 pm

And it's been different in various other schools, teaching philosophy and religion, - not demanding that all the pupils and their parent get involved in a particular one, but to help them understand all sorts of religions and philosophies, and not get prejudiced against people.


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