Leon MacLaren was born in 1910 in Glasgow. His father, Andrew MacLaren, was MP for Burslem, and a great advocate of the teaching of the American Henry George and his land reform policies. In his youth Leon experienced the terrible poverty and social unrest arising from the great depression that followed the Great War of 1914-1918.
Leon MacLaren concluded that despite the relativism of the age, there was such a thing as truth and there was such a thing as justice. Moreover both truth and justice could be discovered – and being discovered, could be taught.
In 1937 MacLaren, now established as a successful barrister decided the time was ripe to establish a school to teach the principles of economics as a science based on justice. Rooms were rented and classes started on the basis of platonic dialogue in which the students used their own powers of reason, but also based on real-life experience.
Soon, after a successful launch, war broke out but classes continued on a limited basis. After the end of the war the School took a lease on a building at 11 Suffolk Street off Trafalgar Square where it remained for many years. Despite the success of the courses, Leon MacLaren came to realise that economics alone was not enough to establish a full understanding of truth. So he started a course in philosophy, largely based on Plato. This was later supplemented by the teaching of Ouspensky following his meeting with Dr Roles of the Study Society This course attracted a large following and extra rooms had to be rented to house the new students.
In 1960 Maharishi Mahesh Yogi came from India to introduce Transcendental Meditation to the West. Both Leon MacLaren and Francis Roles were initiated and encouraged their students to join them. The meditation transformed the work of both organisations, adding greatly to the power of their teaching.
A few years later both men went to India and there met Sri Shantananda Sarasvati, Shankaracharya of the northern India. Both men recognised that Sri Shantananda Sarasvati was a leading proponent of Vedantic Philosophy, of Advaita, non-duality.
From 1965 Leon MacLaren made regular visits to the Shantananda Sarasvati up until 1993. Their conversations have been a rich source of material for discussions and courses in the School.
In more recent years Donald Lambie has succeeded Leon MacLaren as senior tutor of the School. Similar conversations between him and with the present Shankaracharya, Sri Vasudevananda Sarasvati continue to enrich our work both in philosophy and economics.
Advaita Philosophy is essentially practical and depends on putting into practice what is taught. After early courses students are encouraged to participate in the work of running the School from pouring cups of tea to tutoring the courses.
Today the School of Philosophy and Economic Science is thriving with many students throughout the UK and with many associated Schools overseas. Many thousands of students have passed through its doors, many staying for one or two terms, others still attending after 40 or 50 years and more. Almost all have found the courses enriching and for many their lives have been transformed.
The key is in the recognition of the one the true Self which is free and unlimited. Being oneself is the key to health, freedom and happiness for all.