Shakespeares Golden Thread workshop Birmingham

Shakespeare’s Golden Thread workshop

Shirley Burch - Shakespeare workshopShirley Burch leads a workshop that explores the spiritual themes developed by Shakespeare.


School of Philosophy Midlands, Newland House, 137-139 Hagley Road, Birmingham B16 8UA



Sunday February 2, 2014.


This workshop will explore the spiritual themes uniquely developed by Shakespeare from Plato, Medieval and Renaissance literature as discerned by John Vyvyan author of the recently re-published trilogy:

  • The Shakespearean Ethic
  • Shakespeare and the Rose of Love
  • Shakespeare and Platonic Beauty


The seminar will be led by Shirley Burch, a longstanding member of the School of Philosophy and Economic Science (London), former journalist, editor and teacher. She will present Vyvyan’s profound understanding of the wisdom, love and beauty woven into Shakespeare’s most compelling plays.

The Day’s Programme

Shirley Burch Shakespeares Golden Thread

The words of Plato on love, beauty and immortality that stirred Renaissance Europe and influenced Shakespeare.


How Medieval Romance literature and Renaissance thought threw new light on love, beauty and immortality.


“The play’s the thing…” Shakespeare fuses all these themes into dramatic allegories intended to catch the human conscience.

Tea and Conversation


Know thyself practical philosophy

Self knowledge (part 2)

[Read Part 1 by CLICKING HERE]

The Ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates urged us to “Know Thyself.”

But what is this self that we need to know?

Know thyself practical philosophyThe self might be a heady mix of conscious and unconscious motives which guide our behaviour and intentions.

The development of the self is influenced primarily by our culture, which conditions the self – by parents, educators and society – and their beliefs and values. Our subconscious self can be influenced by early trauma and phobias.

Alternatively, growing up in a flourishing environment might lead to a much calmer and confident personality. Our experiences and conditioning will, therefore, determine our temperament: we might be rather introverted and contemplative – rather timid even; alternatively, we might be more extroverted and active; many of us are more devotional and religious.

Whichever is the case, though, personalities tend to be either optimists or pessimists.

Why do we appear to be ignorant of that self, as Boethius seems to be suggesting?

The cognitive scientist and philosopher, Thomas Metzinger, argues that the self, created by self-consciousness and sub-consciousness – provides for us, a window on the world.

This is the ego; but the ego develops over time, so we actually view the world through an ego-tunnel. But we cannot see the walls of the tunnel or the window at one end of it; consequently, if the ego-tunnel obscures or distorts our view for some reason, we won’t necessarily be aware of it – so our experience of the world becomes limited by a sort of tunnel-vision.

Our conscious experience is significantly influenced by our fears and phobias, prejudices, and personal desires stored – and hidden from the conscious self – in the subconscious self.

Thus our conscious experience is not so much an image of reality as a tunnel through reality.


In other words, we do not see the ego – rather, we see with it.

Why do we need to know ourselves?

The self is at the centre of its point of view of the world. The self effectively determines the scope of that view – if that view is extremely self-centred, as in depressed people, for example, then, it will be confined to one’s immediate environment; but if that view is much wider in scope, one’s view can become “cosmic” or “oceanic” that takes in the whole universe – Reality as it is.

Our conditioning, therefore, will invariably distort our view; and yet as philosophers, we need to perceive reality, fully and clearly.

Knowing oneself is therefore the basis for right thought.

The next blog will look at the methods used by the School to enquire into the nature of the created self.

Self Knowledge and Practical Philosophy

Self Knowledge (part 1)

In other creatures ignorance of self is nature; in man it is vice.”



What is the “self”?

My son was born during my service in the Royal Navy; and shortly after his arrival I went to sea for quite some time. When I eventually returned home, my son was toddling, and on hearing the door bell, he ran to greet the visitor at the front door. On seeing me he screamed and ran through the house, heading for escape through the back door. (He’s in his thirties now, and he still does it!)  This event caused me to leave the service, so I could experience my son growing up.


Self Knowledge and Practical PhilosophyEntering the world of work (in 1979) came as quite a shock; a world of the rise of the cult of the individual, a world where any sense of community was starting to decline, a world which never seems to be satisfied with what you’ve just achieved, a world of managers, not leaders. There was no time for awe and wonder anymore; I just didn’t have the patience to spend all night discussing religion and philosophy with my father as I used to. (I only recovered that earlier position a week before he died, when we talked about “faith.”)


Becoming somewhat impatient and intolerant, I had no time for people either, so I took this stress and frustration home, which then infected my family. In fact I started to resent my upbringing – because it didn’t – as I thought – prepare me for engaging with the world. Work had totally taken possession of my being. My early life and my time in the forces were relatively stable; any skills learned lasted throughout my career. But in work, what you’ve achieved this year is never going to be enough the following year – the constant search for growth means that your self has to grow too – but not necessarily for the better. You grow a tough, security layer.


So, “I” had changed; but was it permanent? Was I permanently affected by my experiences?

But, as you will see, this change wasn’t permanent – the world of work had created, not another self, but a covering over of the self I had created in my youth. So how do I get back to that younger self? And indeed, is it possible to go further back again to find the uncreated self? Yes, it is possible; but, first, you have to know that “created” self.


Passannamati Meditation workshop and seminar

Exploring Meditation and Buddhism workshop

Pasannamati Neal, an ordained Buddhist, invites you to join her for a day exploring meditation and Buddhism in a workshop at Newlands House.


Newlands House, 137-139 Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B16 8UA

Telephone: 0121 454 2540


Sunday 9 March 2014

Time: 10:00am – 4:00pm

Cost: £20 (lunch is included).


Exploring Meditation Workshop

This one day seminar will include talks, led meditations, workshops and the opportunity to ask questions.



Pasannamati grew up in Birmingham and has been a practising Buddhist for 13 years. She was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order in 2009, where she was given her name.

She has experience of teaching meditation and leads retreats in the UK and Poland. She still lives in the Midlands, where she works as a teacher.

She practices within the Triratna Buddhist community, which was founded in the UK in the 1960s and has continued to grow into a vibrant and diverse movement with centres and groups worldwide.
This tradition emphasises the importance of the ideals of enlightenment, the Buddha’s teaching and community, and the need for Buddhism to renew itself in the modern world.


Life with Marsilio Ficino Workshop

A one-day seminar



School of Philosophy Midlands, Newland House, 137-139 Hagley Road, Birmingham B16 8UA


10.00am-4.00pm, Sunday November 3, 2013.


The seminar will show why it is good to know more about Marsilio Ficino and the guidance he offers for day-today living. Participants will have the opportunity of hearing what Ficino says:

  • on health (he was a physician),
  • on religion (he was a priest),
  • on virtues such as patience and tolerance (he was adviser to the Medici rulers),
  • on harmony (he was a musician),
  • and on the right use of time and the importance of the present moment (he was a philosopher).


The seminar will be led by Arthur and Phyllis Farndell, who have worked on the translations of Ficino’s letters for some 40 years, helping to produce the nine published volumes.


Arthur, who holds an MA degree in languages from the University of Cambridge, was the editor of Volume 9.

He has also produced his own 4-volume series of translations of Ficino’s commentaries on Platonic dialogues. Phyllis and Arthur have presented Ficino and his work in various parts of the UK, as well as in Italy, Malta, Greece, and Australia.

All are welcome.

Cost: £20 (lunch is included).