Stoicism is an individual journey but, like sailing, it can also be a collective practice. A group of practicing Stoics may want join and form a STOA, or Stoic Circle, to meet regularly in their city. But why to join a Stoic Circle? Self-improvement, sharing what you know, learning from others, fellowship, spiritual growth, or just because they want to. In today’s digital age we are becoming more and more isolated, many important things are lost when we just use e-mails or social media, the importance of face-to-face human communication is becoming more evident than ever.
I think that a STOA should keep some structure and observe certain rules:
- A STOA could be described as a group of people with an interest in philosophy in general and Stoicism in particular, not only intellectually but as a way of life.
- Rules and regularly. A STOA should have certain rules in order to be successful.
- Openness. It should be open to anyone interested in philosophy as a way of life.
- Cosmopolitanism. Every person, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion, race or nationality should be welcomed.
- An ethical code. Stoics believe that Virtue is the highest good and a goal in itself. That means being willing to transform their lives and their communities.
- Respect for the opinnions of other members.
- Democratic character, consensus should be the rule.
- Self-Education: Stoicism teaches a system of Virtue ethics that can only be learned through practice and experience in real life. It encourages its members to expand their knowledge of the world around them.
- Books and information should be shared among members.
Some activities I propose for a Stoic Circle are:
Stoicism is a Socratic philosophy. Socratic dialogue is a systematic way of formulating questions and finding answers. A group (5-15 people), guided by a facilitator, would seat in circle and come up with a universal question (e.g. “What is happiness?”, “Can Virtue be taught?”, “Can conflict be fruitful?”, etc.). Then the group should make more precise questions, “What does happiness mean for you?”, “what are you lacking in this moment, to have a good life? We should respect some rules: Be constructive, avoid competition, attack ideas, not people, define your terms… The virtues of patience, tolerance, attentiveness, thoughtfulness and civility must prevail.
Reading can be a form of meditation. Reading in group, like meditating in group is interesting because we can share our ideas and doubt about a particular text. Some philosophical texts can be difficult, and other people can give us different insights. The books can be ancient and modern, on Stoicism or other topics related to philosophy.
Sports were a central part of the Hellenic character and education, and ancient philosophers used to meet in gymnasiums to express their ideas. Activities in Nature such as hiking, climbing or sailing are particularly interesting because they take us out of our comfort zone. In urban areas, martial arts and calisthenics can be a good way of testing our resilience. The word calisthenics comes from the ancient Greek words kalos (κάλλος), which means “beautiful” or “good” and sthenos (σθένος), meaning “strength”. It is the art of using one’s body weight and qualities of inertia as a means to develop one’s physique. We should remember that a Stoic’s working-out goal is training his or her character and resiliance. Health benefits and body-fitness are just secondary.
If a member of the group has a personal problem, or a negative emotion that is disturbing his or her peace of mind, and wants to share it, the group can gather to listen to the member’s problem, making it the topic of the day. The Stoics used to write to each other letters of advice and consolation. Nevertheless, advice should be avoided unless asked by the member. The very act of speaking and been listen to, is in itself therapeutic.
Roundtable & symposium
“To drink together” The Greek symposium was a key Hellenic social institution. It should be a forum, a relaxed discussion accompanied with some wine, in moderation, exchange of books and ideas, etc. preferably in a round table.
Humans have gathered by the fire from time immemorial, for warmth, to tell stories, recount myths and histories. It was the ever-present symbolic element in Graeco-Roman and Persian cultures. A fire was ever lit at the household, the sacred fire burned in Vesta’s circular temple. At the Platonic Academy, a fire was consacrated to Prometheus (meaning “forethought”), who had stolen the fire from the gods and given to man, an act that enabled progress and civilization. Fire was for Heraclitus the Arché; the origin of all matter, the primordial substance, representing change, light, mind, creation and destruction, This world, which is the same for all, no one of gods or men has made. But it always was and will be: an ever-living fire. In Stoic physics, the universe was shaped by a logos or the “creative fire” (pur technikon). Fire should be present in one way or another in a Stoic circle, to symbolize a living tradition. The fire’s light attracts, unites, galvanizes attentions. The flame and community.
If you are interested in finding a Stoic community near your city this website can be help you:
The Stoic Fellowship is a project that aims at connecting people interested in Stoicism, regardless of location, identity, or financial means.