The Seventh Academy uses ancient tools, which were the basis of teachings for nearly 1000 years in Plato's Academy in Athens, over 2000 years in Buddhist monasteries, 2000 years or more in Confucian training circles, more than 2500 years in Taoist philosophical circles, and at least 3000 years in Egyptian inner-temple schools.
The most recent Academy (the sixth after Plato's) was established by philosopher Marsilio Ficino outside Florence, Italy in the fifteenth century. Ficino's Academy became an important center for learning during the Renaissance.
In the twenty-first century, the Seventh Academy has similar aims, drawing on these diverse, yet parallel, philosophical traditions to study of a wide range of topics.
In engaging with these age-old tools, participants develop clarity about their lives and the world around them. They develop skills that can be useful, no matter what their particular paths, aims, or endeavors.
Modeled on Plato’s Academy in ancient Athens, the Seventh Academy resembles our modern educational organizations only slightly. Today's schools and churches emphasize content and expect members to absorb information and adopt doctrines. Academies do not.
Like ancient academies, the Seventh Academy has no membership, only participants in seminars. It is not content-oriented, but method-oriented.It focuses on the how of learning rather than the what.
Because ancient academies needed some shared body of knowledge – in this case, about methods – teachers would give lectures, and standard texts would be circulated and read.
However, after formal instruction, an Academy community would engage in group study and in shared discourse as the primary modes of learning. Debate provided clarity, and dialogue provided insight.
This is the essence of classical philosophy. It focuses on developing ways of looking at the world, not imparting absolute “truths” about the world. It provides “tools of thought” that are meaningful insofar as they are useful.
In other words, ancient philosophy avoids an important misstep: it does not confuse the map with the territory, nor the menu with the meal (to paraphrase the general semantics theory of Alfred Korzybski).
Finally, ancient philosophy does not exclude any topic. It engages all six intelligences — physical plus emotional, analytic plus synthesizing, and imaginal plus intuitive — so it studies whatever trains them.
Interestingly, classical philosophers were serious and yet light-hearted. The ability to joke about teachings encouraged playfulness, discouraged taking oneself “deadly seriously,” and above all, reminded the community that philosophical tools are not inviolable truths but useful ways of living in the everyday world.
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