Recent History

Recent History             Perennial  Philosophy

In 1964, The School of Practical Philosophy was established as an independent not-for-profit organization in New York City. It followed the lead of a school started by Leon MacLaren in London in 1937. And, in a broader sense, these schools are successors of a philosophic tradition that has existed throughout the ages. These organizations are custodians of the wisdom that Aldous Huxley called the ‘perennial philosophy’, a term coined by Augustinus Steuchius in the 6th century.

  Leon MacLaren (1910-1994) founded a school in London in 1937 against the backdrop of the Great Depression. Its initial efforts focused on economic justice. As work on economics progressed, the need for deeper insights into the natural laws governing humanity arose in the mind of Leon MacLaren. This led to the study of philosophy. During the late 1950s philosophy became the School’s central subject and has remained so ever since.


Truth lives in each one of us, waiting to be revealed, but does not act as master. In truth, each is made whole; in truth, all are united. No happiness is like to that in which people move together, manifesting the truth in all of them, showing unity in diversity and permanence in change. Truth has no face by which it may be recognized, nor body by which it may be known, yet those who have found truth in themselves know it, and see it in everything. While they know it and see it in everything, they are free from error. 
                                                                                           -Leon MacLaren, Lectures

In the early 1960s the School made contact with a leading Indian philosopher, Shantananda Saraswati. Numerous meetings between Leon MacLaren and Shantananda Saraswati took place over thirty years and in the course of which a system of knowledge evolved. Since Shantananda Saraswati’s death in 1997, guidance has been given by his successor, Vasudevananda Saraswati.

It is not my desire which has to be carried out. The desire, which has to be helped, is that which arises in people looking for the truth, wishing to acquire the divine life and to make efforts in that direction; and so far as I can, I will always be ready. My door is always open to anyone, known or unknown, eastern or western, irrespective of his upbringing or culture, because in fact we all come from the same stock. As long as that desire and the decision are strong, permanent and stable, the help will always be available. 
                                                        - Shantananda Saraswati, Conversations, 1965

The connection with India, introduced the School to the universal, non-denominational philosophy known as advaita, which literally means "not two". It explains the essential unity underlying the diversity in creation and the source from which everything arises. This concept of ‘unity in diversity’ is at the heart of the great western philosophical and religious teachings too.

Affiliated schools have been established in more than thirty countries. Each of these schools is legally independent, but all share a common interest and bond through the same philosophical teaching. Donald Lambie, chosen by Leon MacLaren as his successor, is the head of these worldwide schools.