The Aiglon Meditation AS ENVISIONED BY FOUNDER JOHN CORLETTE
Every school day at Aiglon began with a meditation. The practice was integral to the school's ethos. In the following text, John Corlette sets forth his rationale for meditations and instructions for how they should be presented. At the bottom of the page is a link to several meditations that date from his time as headmaster of the school. Unfortunately, meditations presented by visiting speakers, people representing diverse religious and philosophical traditions—Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Humanist—were never transcribed.
I have many times been asked for an explanation of the Aiglon Meditation, why we have them and how we conduct them, both by those called to lead them, and by others interested in the idea.
The following, therefore, is a brief explanation which I hope may be helpful to those interested.
The Meditation takes the place of morning prayers or morning assembly in other schools.
It has been practised at Aiglon since the school's foundation in 1949.
I regard it as the centre of the life of the school, and the point from which its whole character and sense of purpose stems.
Members of the staff are therefore required to attend at least twice a week, and many attend every day if they can.
All the boys and girls, regardless of creed, are required to attend.
At the beginning of each scholastic year I give an explanation of the nature and purpose of the Meditation and go through the 'drill' of physical and mental relaxation and of placing the mind in an attitude of quietness and contemplation.
There are, of course, days when the Meditation 'takes' better than other days, and periods when individuals are more susceptible to its influence than others, but this is what one would expect.
Leaders of the Meditation should be chosen with care as not everyone can do it successfully. A suitable senior student can occasionally be invited to take a Meditation.
In the notes which follow, I hope you will not think that I consider that I myself come up to the standards I here lay down. I am only too aware of my own shortcomings in this as in other things, but one can only make progress if one has clearly fixed in one's mind the goal at which one is aiming.
Notes for those taking [conducting] Meditations
To bring boys and girls into direct contact with spiritual influences so that they may the better know and understand God.
The Hall door is shut at 8.03 and boys and girls take their places; 8.05 the person taking Meditation walks up to the platform, which is the signal for silence. Staff should take their places by 5 minutes to 8.
After taking his place on the platform, the leader should hold a silence for a minimum of 1 minute up to about 3 minutes, one-and-a-half minutes being a fair average. He should in any case not speak until absolute stillness has supervened and been held for long enough to be 'felt'.
The purpose of the talk is to drop one, single pregnant idea into the silence which precedes and follows it. It should not occupy more than at the outside 10 minutes, including silence, and can be no less than one minute. The idea can be a quite simple one. The leader may stand for the talk.
Alternative to talk
Once a week, on Saturday, a 'Musical Meditation' is held.
The talk is then replaced by a brief but significant phrase followed by a suitable piece of music lasting not less than 6 minutes and not more than 10 minutes. The music should be followed by a second silence as usual. Finally as the leader prepares to leave the platform he will announce the title of the music and the composer.
This should be held for a minimum of 2 minutes up to about 5 minutes. The longer period should be aimed at. After a brief period of silence the assembly may appear restless. If the silence is persisted in, this period will usually be passed through, and a much deeper and more vital silence achieved the other side of it. The leader may sit for the silence.
The Silence. The central and most important part of the exercise is the silence. For most people only when the mind and body are stilled can the voice of God be heard, or, to put it differently, can we pick up the direct signals concerning the truth about everything which are constantly being sent out but to which we are normally insensitive. This is what meditation is, laying ourselves open to receive the truth about something, direct from the source and origin of all truth. Hence, the first place taken by the silence.
The purpose of the talk is to indicate to the assembly a subject for meditation, very briefly, very simply, in the fewest possible words. It is not a lecture. It is extremely difficult to do well. To boil it down to one idea 5 minutes in length may take 2 hours of preparation and hard thought, whereas a 15 minute talk or a talk of a discursive nature can be done with Httle or no preparation and fails completely of its purpose. It is better to have no talk at all than one which is too long or too discursive. The silence alone, without any talk, would be much more creative, provided, of course, that the leader is willing to listen, but they are not willing to be bored and (as we all know) their powers of concentration are limited. Thus talks that are over-long or over-complex defeat the purpose. It should also be remembered that they are required to listen every mormng.
Stand or sit straight in a relaxed, easy and natural attitude. Do not bend down in an attitude of prayer or homage. The attitude should be one of quiet thoughtfulness, contemplation, meditation, and a recollection of the presence of God or the power of truth in the room. Try and project this attitude into the room.
Most people, even those accustomed to speaking in public, do so very badly, and other people are usually reluctant to point out their faults, which are often very simple and easily corrected. The following faults are very common and very easily put right:
1. Speaking too softly: this puts a strain on the audience. They miss certain key words and give up.
2. Speaking too loudly or harshly: this is irritating and inaesthetic.
3. Speaking the stressed syllables loudly and the unstressed syllables softly so that the words are difficult to identify. Result, audience strain.
4. Monotony. The tone and pitch of the voice varying within only very narrow limits, or repeating the same sequence of rise and fall, so that such modulations of the voice as. there may be lose any significance.
The voice should be used as a musical instrument and the speed, tonality, emphasis and phrasing very carefully studied so as to enhance the meaning of the words or bring out the significance of the passage.
5. Diction. This is frequently appalling, the words being slurred, blurred, or swallowed. Each syllable must be slowly and independently articulated regardless of whether it is stressed or not. You can then be heard without strain at the back of the room even when speaking comparatively softly. This allows much more room for dynamic variation.
6. Speaking is an art, and should be treated with all the care and thought an art demands.
To sum up, remember that the purpose of the morning assembly is to develop the spiritual life of those taking part, that the means employed is silent contemplation or meditation, and that the talk is to be regarded simply as an aid to this by providing the mind with a creative idea to work on as a start. The talk should therefore be short and designed to present only one idea to the mind for contemplation. It should be expressed with as much lucidity, simplicity and artistry as the leader can summon.
Since the silence is the central part of the exercise, the art of producing and holding a creative silence should be studied.
From The Aiglon Meditation: An Anthology (1989)