Maharaja Shri Shantananda Saraswati
The School of Economic Science has its origins in the 1930s, against the background of severe economic depression. Its founder, Leon MacLaren, was inspired by the work of the nineteenth century economist Henry George. George held that everyone owns what they create, but that everything found in nature, most importantly land, belongs equally to all humanity.
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In 1937 MacLaren founded the Henry George School of Economics, the first public courses being held in the same year with the active support of his father, Andrew MacLaren MP. The school was renamed the School of Economic Science in 1942.
Leon MacLaren continued to develop the courses in economics, writing ‘The Nature of Society’ as a text book. The last chapter of this book reflects his search for something not altogether accessible within the realm of economics. This lead to an interest in philosophy – ‘the love of wisdom’ – as a means of gaining deeper insights into the natural laws governing humanity and the origin of those laws.
After coming in contact with the Study Society in the early 50s, he discovered the teachings of Ouspensky and Gurdjieff. He was taken by the similarities between diagrams developed for the economics courses and those used by Ouspensky.
The first public courses in philosophy started in 1954, and within a few years philosophy became the central subject of study and practice within the School (economics courses have continued and there remains today a thriving economics faculty within the School).
The arrival of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in London in 1959 brought the next stage of development, meditation. This was soon taken up by longstanding students of the School.
In the mid 60s, the School made contact with a leading figure of the Vedantic tradition in India, Maharaja Shri Shantananda Saraswati, from whom it received invaluable guidance in the study and practice of philosophy for over 30 years.
Through this connection with the School was introduced to the universal teaching known as Advaita, which means literally ‘universal’ or ‘devoid of duality’. Since his death in 1997, similar guidance has been provided by his successor, Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati.
The St James Schools in London were established in 1975 as new venture aimed of providing a complete education for boys and girls from the age of 4 to 18.
Run by a separate charity and governed by an independent board, they all flourish. The approach has subsequently been followed by Schools in the USA, South Africa, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
Art in Action began in 1977 and is held every year. Run and staffed by people studying in the School, plus a growing number of other volunteers, it is now a major art event – a showcase for over 250 demonstrators from around the world.
The School has expanded geographically so that courses in philosophy, and sometimes other subjects, are now available through more than 40 branch locations in the UK in the UK. During the same period a number of associated overseas schools have been established. Each of these overseas schools is legally independent, but they share a common interest and bond through the same philosophical teaching.
Leon MacLaren died in 1994 and was succeeded by Donald Lambie, a barrister.