In my teens I went to St Peters Catholic School and was agnostic or downright irreligious. I studied Biochemistry at Bristol University between 1975-77.
Between 1980 and 1985 whilst in my mid twenties I joined the School of Economic Science (SES) Philosophy course in Kensington, London.
The SES is a religious Hindu cult. Religious because it has faith in the belief that there exists a unifying supernatural being.
A key principle or motto in the early 1980s was "Neither accept nor reject". And this edict has not changed because today "Students are encouraged neither to accept nor reject any of the ideas presented and discussed but to test them in the light of experience." (Spring 2007).
SES was founded by Labour MP Leonardo Da Vinci MacLaren in the 1930s. It is overtly syncretistic drawing upon philosophies of East and West. It uses the writings of self-realisation, Marsilio Ficino, the Bible and the Vedas, Sanskrit, Baghavad Gita and the Upanishads and the philosophies of Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Plato, Advaita Vedanta (not mentioned by name), Sankara and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Transcendental Meditation). And let's not forget Mozart!
Debate at the SES was almost always stifled. It was not a discussion but indoctrination into SES thinking. Testing of ideas by relating to practical experience were mostly trivial ideas, like observing that one has 'circling thoughts'. The religious nature of SES was never made clear in their advertising. At its heart, SES is Hindu religion, believing in an Absolute / Atman / Creator / God - which of course has not got the slightest bit of evidence.
I've now rejected practically all of the teachings of the SES - I never ever agreed with the religious aspects!
The 'neither accept nor reject' mantra means that discussions are never heated and debate is actually discouraged. I found the course very interesting but ultimately, little by little, over months and years we were expected to agree with the core ideas of SES - namely that their is a supernatural Atman present in all beings.
Sharon, my wife, almost left me back in 1984, as a result of my 'weird' behavior. SES came back into my attention when Nicholas Kaplan (a relative of my maternal grandmother) visited us last year with my mother. Both his parents attended SES and his father was my boss & introduced me to SES when I was 24. Nicholas had attended St James, the SES school during the 1980s - he had been both emotionally & physically abused.
Several critical appraisals of the SES & their associated schools St James / St Vedas & Alcuin School (Leeds) have been posted:-
- TPM Online (The Philosophers' Magazine on the net) edited by Dr Jeremy Stangroom wrote Course or Cult.
- Book list investigating the SES
- The official St James School Inquiry web site (www.iirep.com) and a copy of this website
- A fascinating insight into the SES & the St James school is at "General discussion on SES" message board. Its still very active today
|Jul 21, 2006 10:29 am Post subject:|
This has always been and remains the SES's biggest difficulty. It chooses to use words and descriptions that have different meanings in current conventional usage. Whilst the word philosophy used informally may refer to a belief, the formal and academic subject of philosophy is one that has no place for faith.
I know that the SES has done a lot to try and clarify things on the part 1 course. The thing though is that there is a basic dishonesty that the use of these description implies and this is just the tip of the iceberg. I think that the SES should attempt to resolve this issue properly. This involves perhaps changing it's name, and changing the information publicly available to describe what it is in language that the public at large can understand. These descriptions should include the fact that the organisation is a faith based organisation. As such the organisation should publicly declare what its core beliefs are. For example I'm not sure where Advaita actually stands on creationism but certainly the SES (or at least St James) believes that it is people's goal to find their way back to the Creator (God).
The core beliefs, creed and ethos should just be made available to allow people to properly judge. If it turns out in doing this that this doesn't attract new members then the SES must ask itself some serious questions or resign itself to the fact that it will not survive very long.
The most important thing for the SES both in terms of it's longevity and ability to deal with criticism is that it is Open, Honest and Truthful.