About Us

Origins of the School of Philosophy

THE SCHOOL was founded in London by Leon MacLaren (1910 – 1994), who at the age of 16 resolved to discover justice and truth.

Leon MacLaren’s initial undertaking was the study of economics, which was a real need at the time with the world still suffering from the effects of the great depression. He established the School of Economic Science in the United Kingdom. The study of economics involved exploring the nature of society, which eventually lead to exploring the nature of humanity.

A fundamental shift took place with the introduction to meditation and the subsequent meeting with Śrī Śāntānanda Sarasvatī, the then Śańkarācārya of the North in India.

Over a period of years (1965 – 1993), Leon MacLaren met with Śrī Śāntānanda Sarasvatī and their discourses formed the basis of the School’s understanding of Advaita philosophy. The dialogues continue with the respective successors to Leon MacLaren and Śrī Śāntānanda Sarasvatī, namely Donald Lambie and Śrī Vāsudevānanda Sarasvatī.

According to the tradition, a Śańkarācārya is referred to as His Holiness.

Advaita Philosophy

THE PHILOSOPHIC enquiry and study in the School is directed towards the understanding of the unity which underlies everyone and everything. The philosophy is known as Advaita Philosophy (Advaita is a Sanskrit word which means “not two”).

The essence of Advaita Philosophy is that in the ultimate analysis there is no difference between human consciousness and the universal creative consciousness and that practical realisation of this unity is possible through reason.

Advaita Philosophy is the basis of the objectives of the School.


The question is often asked whether Advaita Philosophy is a religion. Advaita is a philosophy; it is thus not a religion; it does not have its own particular god or deity with a set of ceremonies or rituals directed towards such a god or deity.

This tradition was not initiated by any particular authority, it never became a religion and therefore it has never engaged in conversion from any religion.

Advaita Philosophy offers the possibility of enriching one’s own tradition and therefore does not conflict with any particular faith or belief. The unifying and inclusive embrace of Advaita Philosophy is far removed from any behaviour of cults, or association with any religious practice in particular.

Śrī Śańkarācārya

LEON MACLAREN’S discourses with the then Śańkarācārya of the North, Śrī Śāntānanda Sarasvatī, formed the basis of the  School’s understanding of Advaita. Śrī Śāntānanda Sarasvatī was a Sannyāsin, that is, one who has renounced worldly engagements for pure consciousness through austerities, reason and meditation.

From him the School gained access to the transcending wisdom of Advaita Philosophy which enlightens both eastern and western minds. It carries with it the possibility of enriching the appreciation of one’s own tradition, enabling a harmonious approach towards the enlightenment of humanity, both individually and universally.

Leon MacLaren’s successor, Donald Lambie, continues to meet with Śrī Śāntānanda Sarasvatī’s successor, Śrī Vāsudevānanda Sarasvatī, the current Śańkarācārya of the North.

Meditation, Service and the Study of Sanskrit are Essential School Activities.

Schools for children

IN EDUCATION, students from the School in London founded the St. James Independent Schools for Boys and Girls in 1975 with the intention of meeting a need for formal schooling with a philosophic and spiritual content. The School continues to support the St. James Schools although they are separate and independent organisations. Today they are thriving institutions with a high reputation for the quality and originality of the education they provide.

There are now eight associated schools for children working from the same or similar principles in the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Trinidad.

The St. James School in Durban was established in 2005, and is situated in Stamford  Hill Road.

What about funding?

THE SCHOOL’S primary source of funding is the fees paid by students attending courses. Fees are kept to the minimum necessary to provide for the facilities required to offer courses as widely as possible. In addition, the School depends a great deal on the generosity of students through gifts and bequests.

Over the last fifty years in Gauteng, the School has acquired a number of properties which are all used for the provision of courses or for the location of the children’s schools. The aim is to maintain and improve the properties as best as possible to provide the most suitable surroundings for philosophical study.

No member obtains an income from the School’s activities.

Non-profit and Public Organisation Status

THE SCHOOL of Practical Philosophy is properly constituted through its Constitution, and is a registered public benefit, not for profit organisation. Each year, members of the School meet at an Annual General Meeting to elect five executive committee members who together with four branch chairpersons deal with the day-to-day management of the School’s funds and properties to ensure that the necessary facilities are available as needed for the provision of courses.

Associated Schools

THERE IS also an international fellowship of more than 30 schools and branches around the world, all of which offer courses based on those which have been developed in the School in London and which apply the same principles.

Each School is an independent organisation with its own leadership and administration, but they are united by a common approach to philosophy and its practice. Contact is maintained by regular visits and interchanges between students.  Schools around the world are known as School of Economic Science, School of Philosophy, or School of Practical Philosophy. Although the names may vary, the underlying principle of all these schools is the same.

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Schools in South Africa

In addition to the School of Practical Philosophy in KwaZulu-Natal, there are two other Schools in South Africa, one in the Western Cape and one in Gauteng. These Schools are separate institutions, each with its own School leader and executive committee.

School                   Contact Telephone

Gauteng                0861 66 6688

Western Cape        021 683 6314

Associated Schools

School of Economic Science London      +44 (0)20 7034 4000

Argentina  Buenos Aires

Australia  Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Wagga Wagga

Belgium  Antwerp, Brussels

Canada  Toronto

Cyprus  Nicosia

Holland  Amsterdam and other centres

Hungary  Budapest

Ireland  Dublin and other centres

Israel  Herzelea

Malta  Valetta

New Zealand  Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton, Masterton, Palmerston North, Wellington

Spain  Madrid

Trinidad  Port of Spain

USA  Albany, Boston, Georgia, New York, Rochester NY, San Francisco

Venezuela  Merida

The School of Practical Philosophy


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Contact details for associated schools can be obtained from the School’s London office + 44 (0) 20 7034 4000, or from the website www.schooleconomicscience.org

Read about the History of the School of Philosophy