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Initiation Workshop July/Aug 2017 Meeting Notes Thread

on Fri 28 Jul 2017, 11:05
Greetings, fellow Candidates!

With Patrician Cassandra's gracious permission, we of the Skit Squad wanted to make our notes from the Initiation Workshop meetings available to anyone who might find them helpful. Calista and I will be taking notes for ourselves each time and we will post a copy on this thread shortly after the class meetings. If anyone has requests for changes in formatting or note-taking style to make the notes easier to use as a reference, feel free to ask. 

Best Regards,
Candidate Morgan, of the Skit Squad system
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Re: Initiation Workshop July/Aug 2017 Meeting Notes Thread

on Fri 28 Jul 2017, 11:14
1st Initiation Workshop
25 June 2017, 8PM EST
Topic: The guiding virtues and code of conduct
Doctrine of Nonintervention - A part of Gallifreyan ethics; supersedes the virtues. 
Six Core Virtues

  1. Tradition - shared beliefs & practices that keep us connected to our past

  2. Understanding - awareness of the thoughts, feelings, and viewpoints of others; good judgment

  3. Discipline - adhering to a set of rules or code of behavior; Self-Discipline is an important subset

  4. Integrity - moral uprightness; honesty

  5. Loyalty - allegiance and support; keeping your commitments; prioritizing the good of the group  

  6. Respect - treating something or someone with regard for their rights and preferences; also, Reverence

Knowing the virtues is necessary but insufficient. One must also grasp how to apply them IRL and have the critical thinking necessary to know when the right thing to do is actually to violate one in order to serve a higher moral purpose.
Discussion of when the choice that would technically be in line with Gallifreyan Tradition ethics would not be the right choice followed.
Doctrine of Nonintervention, defined: Do not meddle in the lives of others without their permission, or do harm to them, unless their actions are contributing to universal imbalance.
Participants were asked to attempt to define "universal imbalance"; Suggestions were

  • a situation or state in which the virtues are being broken and people are being harmed unnecessarily

  • Violating the inherent right of others to have their own peaceful existence without being bothered or harmed

Patrician Cass Oakdown, seminar leader, approved of both definitions for functional use.
The next topic of discussion was whether there was a connection between universal balance and internal balance. Consensus amongst the seminar participants was yes. Answers explored the general themes that each individual was partof the universal balance, and that in order for an individual to best contribute to/maintain Universal balance it would be more effective if they had Internal balance first.
***Assignment for next week: An essay of between 500 and 1,000 words about the virtues and Doctrine of Non-intervention as they fit into your life.***
Next meeting: Tuesday 1 August, 8PM EST, on Skype.
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Re: Initiation Workshop July/Aug 2017 Meeting Notes Thread

on Tue 01 Aug 2017, 20:45
Week 2
1 August 2017, 8PM EST
Topic: Organization of the Society, chapter system
Organizational structure
Has recently undergone some changes.
As explained by the seminar's distinguished guest, our honored Lord President:
The High Council is the senior leadership of GT

  • The Advisor (Patrician Shilo - an interim appointment pending election results), Castellan (Patrician Jade Lirija), and Chancellor (Patrician Cassandra) are the three Council roles that have official titles for their office.

    • The Lord President recently instituted an administrative change to the organization of the High Council, formally designating the three senior roles as the Inner Council in line with canon Gallifreyan political structure.

The following discussion question was then posed to Seminar participants: in your own words, how would you describe the form of governance for which the Gallifreyan Tradition Society strives?
Answers focused on several common themes:

  • Structure - necessary for any organization or group

  • Democratic values - giving the members a voice and a way to raise any concerns or ideas to leadership's attention for consideration

    • Although the Lord President is the highest ranking, even that is not an autocratic position whose holder has all the power within GT; the Council has a variety of views and serve as checks and balances on the running of the Society

  • Authenticity - making reasonable efforts to recreate the government structure used on Gallifrey

GT's government structure, defined: "A democratically elected, oligarchical meritocracy, in which leadership is seen as an earned responsibility rather than a given right" ~Patrician Cassandra, Lord Chancellor.
The second discussion question of the Seminar was: How, in your opinions, does one earn the responsibility of leadership?
Answers emphasized the need for a leader to have earned the trust and respect of the community they would serve, in ways such as demonstrated involvement, commitment, and strategic vision for the group. Character traits that one must show as a prerequisite for being seen as qualified for a leadership position were also discussed, including fairness and the ability to represent a variety of different people's points of view. 
Discussion then moved on to the following question:  In your own words, define "undue influence," and explain what you believe must be done to avoid it. Use of outside resources was permitted for this portion of the class.
Answers touched on the following:

  • Abuse of authority - manipulating others or violating members' free will to advance the authority figure's desired outcome

  • Autocratic tendencies - unwillingness of the leader to be challenged by others, believing instead that they were the only person who should have much influence on the outcome of a decision or on the direction of the group

  • Exercising power beyond the actual scope of their authority

  • Having ulterior motives underlying their decision-making

The Chapter System
The Chapter system is an important part of the organization and leadership structure of the Gallifreyan Tradition Society.
This topic's discussion question was: What are some benefits and drawbacks to a means of social organization that is similar to the Chapter system?
Benefits included:

  • Helping people find others who shared their interests

  • Learning skills surrounded by a group of people who were all good at the thing in question

  • Knowing members' strengths that could be used to help the group

  • Encouraging the formation of social connections between people likely to get along well due to their similarities

Potential drawbacks noted by participants included:

  • The possibility that the system would foster division

  • Conflict or misunderstandings between chapters over whose skills are more valuable/superior/etc

  • That someone might not feel entirely at home in any one chapter due to having skills or traits of several, and therefore could find the Chapters to be constraining

***Assignment for next week: An essay of at least 500 words (no upper limit) on your chapter affiliation and what it means to you. This is to be posted on the Academia Gallifreya Forums, in your finished assignment thread.***

Next meeting: Tuesday 8 August, 8PM EST, on Skype.
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Re: Initiation Workshop July/Aug 2017 Meeting Notes Thread

on Tue 08 Aug 2017, 20:52
Week 3
8 August 2017, 8PM EST
Topic: The history and culture of GT as an organization
The session opened with discussion of the following question:
Describe, in your own words, your impressions of the Gallifreyan Tradition Society's culture.
A wide range of answers were received, with common points of:

  • Inclusiveness & acceptance

  • Respect

  • Valuing knowledge and learning

  • Self-improvement

  • Focus on social justice and equality

  • Freedom of thought and expression

From there, participants were asked to discuss the ways in which an individual could contribute to maintaining this culture.

  • Treating others appropriately (respect, courtesy, acceptance, etc.)

  • Sharing one's own thoughts and ideas

  • Seeking to learn from others; having an open-minded approach

  • Seeking continuous self-improvement

  • Openness to change for the better

As a follow-up to the last point mentioned, openness to change for the better, Patrician Cassandra provided the following observation:
History: The downfall of the Gallifreyan people was their unwillingness to embrace change even when it was clearly in their best interest. Part of reconstruction is the humility that it takes to recognize what could be done better.
Continuing on that theme, discussion then moved to consideration of the following provided prompt:
The composer Gustav Mahler once said that tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of the flame. How do we distinguish between ashes and flame in our reconstruction of Gallifreyan society?
The consensus was that flame was what worked in the past and continues to fit the group and serve its interests well, whereas ash would be those things which have lost relevance to people's current needs and are no longer the best choice for the group's healthy existence and continued growth.

  • Maintain what works, helps, increases unity, and brings about improvement

  • Re-examine and potentially discard that which has grown so stagnant it is now holding the group back

Patrician Cassandra contributed the following distinction: The difference between tradition and habit is that tradition brings meaning to our lives, whereas habit merely takes up time.
When constructing or reconstructing tradition, then, one should seek to answer the following questions:

  1. Does this bring meaning to our lives?

  2. If this is no longer meaningful in our lives, how can the flame be reignited?

Culture relates both to traditions that bind people together and to overall group identity.
The next discussion question was regarding what preconceptions you may have held upon first joining the Society and whether you still hold them now. Most participants stated that they had initially assumed that the group was fandom-based and full of extremely dedicated, knowledgeable Dr. Who fans -- but in reality nearly everyone has found GT to be so much more and that they fit in better than they thought.
Many stereotypes and misconceptions are held about GT by those outside of the group -- such as cult allegations, that we dominate the kin and fandom communities, that we're an extremely nerdy fanclub or roleplaying group, or that all members adhere to the same spiritual path.
The roots of these stereotypes can range from ignorance, bias, assumptions made and allowed to continue unchecked, reliance on outdated information from past interactions that no longer accurately represent the group, or even personal conflicts that might lead to the intentional malicious spreading of misinformation.
It was noted that while GT does not necessarily have to include a spiritual component, it does for many participants, and that an inability to comprehend non-mainstream spiritualties as legitimate is a large part of the stigma against GT and other similar groups.
***Assignment for next week: A 500+ word reflection on the collective identity of the Gallifreyan Tradition Society, how it is similar to and different from other communities which exist under the banner of fandom, pop culture paganism, and/or alterhumanity.***

Next meeting: Tuesday 15 August, 8PM EST, on Skype.
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Re: Initiation Workshop July/Aug 2017 Meeting Notes Thread

on Wed 16 Aug 2017, 21:49
Week 4
16 August 2017, 9PM EST*
*Note: This week's seminar was postponed and held at a different date and time*
Topic: the practice of cultural reconstruction (as opposed to the theory)
Special guests at the seminar were The Lord President and Healer Isa
Patrician Cassandra opened the session by asking participants to give their thoughts on the practice of Gallifreyan cultural reconstruction both as an individual and collective activity and way of life.
On an individual level:

  • Moral guidelines to incorporate into one's life

  • living by the virtues and avoiding the flaws

  • Personal involvement in GT activities

  • Several people noted that they found themselves getting more interested/involved than they'd initially expected

As a collective activity

  • Group identity is important for establishment of a culture, so having the community aspect is essential

  • Comparison was drawn to pagan/polytheistic historical reconstruction

  • Many participants noted that we're beginning to re-establish the Houses, a tangible real-world aspect of reconstructing Gallifreyan society 

Healer Isa and Patrician Cassandra found the pagan/polytheistic reconstruction point worthy of further consideration, noting especially that this came about due to community support and that spirituality wasn't separate from overall culture in the society.

  • Possible to be a member of GT without believing any of the spiritual/pop-culture pagan aspects such as worship of the Menti Celesti or veneration of the Founders

  • However, mention of spiritual beliefs would be present throughout GT spaces even if an individual didn't need to believe in order to belong

  • philosophy and spirituality and culture are all interconnected

  • Reconstruction and adaptation as two sides of the same coin, especially in practice where our cultural aspects will be in the minority and in light of the fact that spirituality and tradition both seem to be of decreasing importance in modern society

    • Ties in with the previous lesson flame versus ash: Preserve the good but do not perpetuate mistakes or injustices
    • i.e. no need for classism such as looking down on associating with people of varying social classes/ranks

One of the Candidates then brought up a question deemed worthy of further explanation: What everyone considered to be the beneficial aspects to keep versus what required improvement.
A range of answers were provided based on personal values/experience, but among the noted beneficial aspects were:

  • Emphasis on the virtues

  • Balance and non-intervention

  • Responsibility and focus on self-improvement

  • The value placed on knowledge; placing art, literature, and music as inherently important to society & things that should be accessible to all

Things to be avoided were anything which furthered prejudice rather than justice & truth or anything in conflict with the virtues.
This sparked discussion of rank/social class within GT - what was good versus what was problematic prejudice?

  • Keeping the beneficial aspects of class and rank, without the opportunity for abuse of power.

  • Some social status does naturally come with higher titles, but those titles are earned and indicate higher levels of responsibility and accountability expected of the holder

The Concentric Circles model of involvement levels:
Primary Inner Ring
- fully involved physically, in all levels
- members of a House
- identify as Gallifreyan (soul origin or adoption)
Secondary Inner Ring
- fully involved physically, in most levels
- usually not members of a House
- identify as Gallifreyan (soul origin or adoption)
Tertiary Inner Ring
- fully involved online, in all levels
- identify as Gallifreyan (soul origin or adoption)
Middle Ring
- mostly involved online, in most levels
- may or may not identify as Gallifreyan
Outer Ring
- involved on some levels
- may or may not identify as Gallifreyan
Furthest Ring
- casual participants
- associated members
- mostly do not identify as Gallifreyan
***Assignment for next week: an essay of no less than 500 words about your ideal vision for the Gallifreyan Tradition Society in ten years***

Next Meeting:  Tuesday 22 August, 8PM EST, on Skype
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URGENT UPDATE RE assignment for Tuesday 29 August

on Sat 19 Aug 2017, 14:06
Attention all Candidates:

A typo in the notes we posted was just brought to our attention and the post has been edited to reflect that the length of the assignment is to be "no less than 500 words" 

We had mistakenly written "no more than", but to reiterate, the essay must be 500 words minimum.

We sincerely apologize for the mistake and hope that this notice reaches all of you in time to minimize any inconvenience. If our error has caused you to require an extension, we will be reaching out to Patrician Cassandra on the afternoon of 19 August and requesting that anyone impacted by our mistake be granted an extension with any consequences or sanctions falling on us as the responsible party.

Again, our apologies to all of our fellow Candidates.

Best regards,
Candidates Calista & Morgan Slytherin and Olivia Sanders
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Re: Initiation Workshop July/Aug 2017 Meeting Notes Thread

on Tue 22 Aug 2017, 20:04
Week 5
22 August 2017, 8PM EST
Topic: Radical Acceptance and the Nature of Identity
Special guests at the seminar were The Lord President and Healer Isa
 Tolerance Paradox
To be tolerant, a society must not tolerate intolerance.
In other words, intolerance of intolerance is necessary to preserve a state of maximum acceptance.
Radical acceptance requires respecting everyone's identity but that isn't a free pass to excuse bigotry

People have the right to have their identity seen as real and valid, but once they choose to base their ideology on bigotry, they lose the right to have said ideology honored as true and reasonable.
The definition and nature of "identity"
Healer Isa on identity:
Definition: how one is viewed, either by themselves or others; a label. 
Origin: Identities may be chosen by ourselves or given to us by others
Impact: Identity labels can be helpful, harmful, or a combination
Identities generalized and ascribed to entire groups have become negative, reduced to mere stereotypes.
Labels/stereotypes given by others can be reclaimed by those against whom they were used (e.g. pride movements)
Radical Acceptance & the Gallifreyan Tradition Society
How does the idea of radically accepting all experiences of identity tie into building a better Gallifrey on earth?

  • Accepting all people for who they are means a more inclusive society

  • Radical acceptance guards against stigmatizing and othering those who are different - differences (e.g. class, physical abilities, neurotype, etc.) are not looked down upon but understood as simply part of who people are, contributing factors to their experiences and the backgrounds they bring to the table.

  • Basing the way someone is regarded and treated on their own personal merits (contributions, character, knowledge, etc.) rather than on stereotypes connected to identity labels such as social status or age.

  • An accepting society is more open to the contributions that all people can make

***Assignment for next week: none (time to catch up on any outstanding assignments)***
Topic for consideration (written responses are encouraged but optional): Contemplate your own identity-- who are you, what are you willing to stand up for, what is most important to you?

Next Meeting:  Tuesday 29 August, 8PM EST, on Skype
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Re: Initiation Workshop July/Aug 2017 Meeting Notes Thread

on Tue 29 Aug 2017, 20:12
Week 6
29 August 2017, 8PM EST
Topic: The importance of ritual; Initiation
Special guests at the seminar were  Healer Isa and Patrician President Aurore.
Rituals are important from both a psychological and a spiritual perspective.
Advantages of ritual from a purely sociological/psychological/anthropological perspective:

  • Creates a sense of belonging and unity for the participants that strengthens group identity

  • Provides structure through adherence to tradition and marking the passage of time in specified ways

  • Psychological benefits include safe altered mindsets, clarity, and increased personal power

  • Group rituals increase the efficacy of the ritual's intent by synchronizing many people's efforts towards a shared goal

  • Some rituals allow participants to carve out time that is used to focus on their spiritual path, and spirituality has been noted to have myriad benefits if the beliefs are approached and applied in a positive way

Healer Isa on the benefits of spirituality (noted across cultures and academic disciplines):

  • Knowledge

  • Sense of community

  • Comfort

  • Hope

Discussion then moved to thoughts on memes, inside jokes, and humor as one of the rituals that bind a group together

  • Memes are kind of ritualized inside jokes; taken on a life of their own and are understood by members as sort of an internal shorthand

  • Jokes and other forms of humor are a more informal side of the culture that fosters group bonding in a relaxed atmosphere

  • Formal and informal aspects are both important to group identity; humor keeps things from getting too serious

  • A group's humor takes on a life of its own; memes & jokes become important parts of the group identity

    • Icebreakers - a way to introduce new people to the group & its culture
    • Once someone understands the jokes it can feel like a milestone showing they really belong
    • Memes can feel like they really 'belong' to the group and it would be awkward/uncomfortable/misunderstood if they were taken and used by outsiders

Rites of Passage
Such rites signify a period of transition or change in state.
Acknowledgment of personal growth and/or learning, and a corresponding shift in responsibilities
Importance of GT's Initiation as a rite of passage

  • Beginning of full membership in the Gallifreyan Tradition Society

    • Shift from a more casual involvement to official full involvement, acceptance and belonging

  • Commitment - the Candidate has learned enough to determine that they want the benefits and responsibilities of membership, and the group has accepted them as a new member

    • Taking on both the blessings and the burdens

      • Blessings such as community, personal growth, knowledge, etc.
      • Obligations/burdens such as responsibility, a stake in GT's reputation, and acceptance of a requirement for prioritizing the best interests of the group even potentially above one's personal interests in matters that would impact the Society as a whole

*** Assignments are:
 a) complete anything you've missed, and
 b) meet privately with your individual mentors and arrange a date and time for your own initiations
Any Candidate in the seminar who does not currently have an individual mentor was instructed to contact the Lord President so that one could be arranged. ***

This was the last session prior to Initiation.
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Re: Initiation Workshop July/Aug 2017 Meeting Notes Thread

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