The School Leaders’ Gathering, August 2019

DAVID HORAN was privileged to represent our School as leaders from all over the world gathered at Waterperry House, near Oxford, to discuss the contribution we are making to a universal and worthy endeavour


The School in Ireland owes its origins to a small group of very enthusiastic people who, in the mid 1960s, were meeting regularly in a mews house in Monkstown, Dublin, to read a somewhat obscure and nowadays seldom-read work which combines philosophy with psychology. Their interest was in human development. They heard about the School of Economic Science in London and enquired about obtaining help with their own endeavours.

In October 1967, Leon MacLaren, the founder and leader of the London School, visited them in Dublin and was much impressed with the work they were doing and with their progress. He gave them the material that was then in use in London and this eager group applied themselves keenly, ceased their other study, and opened their doors to the public in January 1968 by offering their first “Workshop For Practical Philosophy”, almost 52 years ago.

Through this connection with the School in London we became a part of a worldwide family of such Schools all with a common purpose, a common objective and a common approach.

It was the practice of Leon MacLaren to hold meetings of the various School leaders from all over the world on a regular basis. Our own late leaders, Konrad Dechant and Shane Mulhall, attended a number of such gatherings and this year I was privileged, along with my wife, Frances, to represent the School in Ireland at a similar gathering held at Waterperry House near Oxford, the main residential house of the English School.

The event was hosted and led by Mr Donald Lambie the Leader of the worldwide family of Schools and the successor to the founder, Leon MacLaren. We were there for two weeks and, as Mr Lambie put it in a subsequent lecture, “it was marvellous!”.


Over 40 leaders and partners were present and for study purposes they were divided into four groups. We began each day with meditation and then some work before breakfast. There followed a three to four-hour period of quiet contemplative, reflective, meditative practice, the particulars of which were left quite open, and the objective of which was the experience of our own true nature.

This protracted practice marked a new development in the work of the School, and when resorted to faithfully and patiently over a two-week period, the practice was indeed very powerful. After lunch there was another period of work, and then, after an interval, we had a meeting on administrative topics, advised in advance by the various leaders.

This meeting was chaired by Mr Lambie and it covered 35 topics, including advertising and web sites, young people in the Schools, the names of the Schools, student retention, and the use of online courses. Before supper each evening Mr Lambie read the contents of the most recent conversations with the Shankaracharya, which took place in January of this year. He took discussion and answered questions. The time after supper was left open for conversation or some short presentations. Midway through the event there was a free day on which we could go into Oxford, stay at Waterperry or, generally do as we pleased. Frances and I visited the Botanic Gardens in Oxford — we like Botanic Gardens.


There was a service team for each of the two weeks of the event, both teams consisting of about 40 students from all over the world. Six students from the School in Ireland joined the service teams, each for one week. The Sydney School produced a book entitled The Power of Service, consisting of extracts from Leon MacLaren’s lectures on this topic.

The book, and the activity of the service teams, highlighted the fact that service is central to this work on human development that the School has undertaken, and is fundamental to the cleansing process which is required in order to experience our own true nature or, more precisely, to clear the clouds of mistaken ideas which impede that experience. Leon MacLaren greatly emphasised the importance of service in the work we have undertaken and the great blessing it confers:

“What a blessing that would be: the load of ages wiped out; the light foot; the clear heart and the steady mind, ready to take on the rest of the journey in bliss, doing what is necessary gladly."

(Power of Service, page 29)

The overall work of the School itself is indeed a service to humanity and it was evident from this international gathering of people with a single purpose and a common approach, that the work is proceeding well, is being guided well and is being pursued in a whole-hearted and unselfish spirit. We are fortunate indeed to be part of such a great and ennobling endeavour.