The Methodology of Wisdom

In our sessions we discuss various ideas and concepts.

In each session we also discuss our findings from the previous week and we review what we have discovered.
This brings about a greater understanding.

The methodology of wisdom (and not mere information) is:

As a general principle, it is better neither to accept nor to reject concepts as they are given, but to put them into practice with an open mind.
In that way we can see whether they have any validity or not.
Do they hold water under examination and in practice.

Although the tutor presents the material, a lot can be learned from our observations and the observations of other students.
This is a significant element in the course.

The Philosophical model, going back thousands of years, to a large extent involves pairs or groups rather than individual pursuit.
As humans we learn and practice and learn better in a social context.

Know Yourself

We live our lives looking outward.

And through life we come to know more and more about the world around around us. And somewhere along the way, many of us lose touch with our own selves. When we look within we are confronted by our thoughts, feelings, desires, anxieties, prejudices, fears and much more. It seems increasingly difficult to discern our true selves from the storm of notions that divide us from our own essence. Much of the purpose of philosophy and the meaning of wisdom is found in knowing ourselves. Only then can we begin to really know happiness and satisfaction.

Modern philosophy distinguishes two types of self-knowledge.
One is knowledge about one’s own particular mental and emotional states.
The other is knowledge of a persistent self, that is, a self that persists whatever the mental or emotional states may be.

Do we think self-knowledge is important?
Why bother to know yourself? What is the effect of not knowing yourself?
Is wisdom possible without knowing oneself?

People search for an identity.
A teenager may want to be like a celebrity.
We may identify with our job, our relationships, even a football team.
But is all this who we really are?
Do any of those identifications last forever?

This pursuit of authentic self-knowledge is as old as mankind. Lao Tzu over 2500 years ago said:
“Knowing others is intelligence. Knowing yourself is true wisdom.”

More recently a great woman sage of India, Ānandamayī Mā, who lived between 1896 and 1982 said:
“My consciousness has never associated itself with this temporary body… As a little girl ‘I was the same’. I grew into womanhood but still ‘I was the same’ . . . in front of
you now ‘I am the same’. Ever afterwards . . . ‘I shall be the same.”

She also stressed the importance of being single-minded in pursuit of self-knowledge:
“Acquire a firm will and utmost patience. Precious gems are profoundly buried in the earth and can only be extracted at the expense of great labour.”

The philosophical journey is not then so much a process of self-transformation in which we work to make improvements so much as it one of self-discovery to come to know and amplify and life what is already truly there.

Living Anew: Embracing the Present Moment

"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
— Abraham Lincoln

Life has a way of slipping by unnoticed, as we trudge through the routines and obligations that fill our days.
But what if we could hit the reset button and approach each moment as if it were our first?

Imagine waking up to a world brimming with possibilities, where every sight, sound, and sensation is a revelation waiting to be discovered.
This is the essence of living anew—to embrace each moment with a sense of wonder and curiosity, as if experiencing it for the very first time.

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
— Søren Kierkegaard

It's easy to get caught up in the past, dwelling on regrets or longing for what once was.
But true liberation comes from letting go of the past and embracing the present moment with open arms.
This is not to say that we should disregard the lessons of the past; rather, we should use them as stepping stones to propel us forward on our journey.

"Be present in all things and thankful for all things."
— Maya Angelou

Living anew is about cultivating mindfulness and gratitude in everything we do. It's about savouring the simple pleasures of life—the warmth of the sun on our skin, the laughter of loved ones, the beauty of nature unfolding before our eyes. By staying present and grateful, we can infuse even the most mundane moments with a sense of purpose and joy.

"Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life."
— Seneca

So let us cast aside the shackles of the past and seize the opportunity to live anew.
Let us approach each day with fresh eyes and an open heart, ready to embrace the beauty and wonder that surrounds us.
For in the end, it's not the years in our life that matter, but the life in our years.

A New and Wiser Way of Living

The philosophers of Ancient Greece and India did not regard philosophy as just an intellectual or academic subject.

To them it was about how people lived and the quality of their lives.

Pierre Hadot (1922-2010) wrote extensively about Ancient Greek philosophy. He said:
“Philosophy was a mode of existing-in-the-world, which had to be practised at each instant, and the goal of which was to transform the whole of the individual's life ...Philosophy was a way of life, both in its exercise and effort to achieve wisdom, and in its goal, wisdom itself. For real wisdom does not merely cause us to know: it makes us "be" in a different way ... Such is the lesson of ancient philosophy: an invitation to each human being to transform him or herself. Philosophy is a conversion, a transformation of one's way of being and living, and a
quest for wisdom.”
Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, ch. 11

In modern times, a common idea is that philosophy is an intellectual, theoretical pursuit.
Hadot is re-establishing philosophy in its original form.

Is philosophy relevant to how we live today in the modern world?
Is there any point in seeking wisdom? And if not wisdom, what would be a truly worthy goal to be universally enjoyed?

The author Marcel Proust wrote:
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past 5/2

What does it mean to have new eyes?
How can philosophy help me to have new eyes?
How might new eyes change what is seen and experienced?
To live with fresh senses. Where every experience were as though for the first time?
Where nothing is ever stale. Every experience, every relationship, every idea as if truly fresh.

Wisdom and Happiness

The word ‘philosophy’ is derived from two Greek words: philo: love and sophia: wisdom.
Thus philosophy is the love of wisdom. So what is wisdom?

Philosophy is not just for academics. It is open to anyone.
Do we know anyone or have we heard of anyone whom we think of as wise?
What is it about them that makes us think they are wise?

What qualities do they have?

This need not be only public or famous figures. It could be anyone.
Focus on the qualities of wisdom rather than the particular people.
The dictionary definition of wisdom is ‘experience and knowledge together with the power of applying them practically’.

It is possible to be wise about particular things or activities. We may, for example, call a doctor wise.
That would mean he or she has experience and knowledge of medicine and is able to apply these practically. The same might be said of anyone who has acquired a mastery of any particular subject or activity.

The idea of Philosopy is not to be a wise doctor, or a wise anything else, but to be wise people.
When we use the word ‘wisdom’ we mean . . . the knowledge which will enable a person to live truly and happily.
The activity that the knowledge relates to is life itself. Wisdom is the knowledge that can enable us to master the art of living.

We spend a lot of time mastering many aspects of life - professional life, family life, skills, jobs, sports, etc.
But what about mastering life as a whole?
Living artfully and happily.

Don’t Settle for a life on Auto-Pilot

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Plato, Apology 38

We may have opinions and beliefs, sometimes holding them deeply, but not necessarily considering them deeply.
Do we regard this as satisfactory? What happens when they are challenged?

Socrates gave the analogy of a ship whose captain has little knowledge of navigation or the skill of sailing. He gives this description:
“The sailors are quarrelling with one another about the steering – everyone is of the opinion that he has the right to steer, though he has not learned the art of navigation. They throng about the captain, imploring him to give them the helm. If at any time they do not prevail, but others are preferred to them, they kill the others or throw them overboard. Then having chained up the captain they mutiny and take possession of the ship and make free with the stores.”
Plato, Republic Book VI:488

Socrates goes on to describe that in contrast:
“…the true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons, the sky, stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to the art of navigation…”
Plato, Republic Book VI:488

This can be taken as an analogy. The true pilot represents wisdom. The mutineers represent the opinions, attitudes and beliefs which may be powerful, but which lack wisdom. Only the true pilot can guide the ship safely and well. In the same way Socrates says the only true guide for life is wisdom. He says that philosophy is the love and pursuit of wisdom, and this is why the study of philosophy is important.

What is the pilot for your life? Is it opinion? Ambition? What is it? What would it mean for wisdom to be the pilot?
There’s something to be said for living on autopilot. It requires very little effort, and it can be pleasurable. But does it lead to a fulfilling and meaningful life? Or does true meaning come from being conscious of the different parts that make up the individual and putting the right part of you at the helm of your life?

Why Study Philosophy?

Philosophy as a body of work contains many great truths that help us to live a meaningful and rewarding life. The greatest value of philosophy is when it can be practised in everyday life. Practical philosophy combines the great teachings and wisdoms from wise people throughout the ages with practical exercises informed by Vedanta Philosophy, Buddhism, Tao, Zen, Christianity and other great cultures and ways of living.

The most important things are what the practitioners discover for themselves that are useful to apply in their own lives in order to live a more fulfilling, rewarding and useful life. The other great outcome from the study of philosophy is the discovery of unity with others. To connect with others and be uplifted from ones own personal troubles or limited beliefs.
It is this sense of unity that really drives philosophy and philosophers to realise and share inspiring ideas and practices.

For the better life for all.