The man who launched a thousand souls
What is truth, or rather, Truth?
One may ordinarily consider truth as the absence of lying, or Truth as the absence of untruth. On the other hand, Truth may be considered to be the laws governing this great universe and more so, that Supreme Consciousness that pervades it all. During the earlier part of the 20th century there lived a young man in Britain whose view of the Truth was extraordinary, both for his youth and the age and country in which he lived. He was Leon MacLaren. Much has been said about this remarkable man but I would like to speak not of his generalities. It is reported that at the age of 16, whilst sitting quietly on the banks of a lake, it occurred clearly to him that there is such a thing as Truth, that it can be learned and it can be taught. As I recall, he then resolved to discover the Truth and to teach it one day.
As a young man I, too, was interested in Truth. My father had found a way to practice meditation, as he called it, and was very keen on the works of one Maurice Nicol, a student of Ouspensky. This was in the 1950’s in South Africa. My father had a group of people whom he met with to study Maurice Nicol and to meditate in a small town called Ermelo on the Eastern Highveld. In my teens I was ever more keen on the concept of Truth but had no real understanding of what it meant, nor where it might be found. There had been a few sublime experiences of supreme happiness and oneness with all around me but there was nothing that could be done with these experiences for it was not known from whence they came or what their real meaning was. One night in my 14th year whilst drifting off to sleep a thought came as if it was a gift and the meaning of the thought was that Truth would be known in the course of this life. In 1974, my nineteenth year, while sharing dinner with family members, my elder sister and brother-in-law began speaking about a school they had joined. They too had been searching for this Truth, in their own way, and had responded to an advertisement. The school they had joined was The School of Economic Science, founded and run by Leon MacLaren. They suggested I join but this was declined. Later in the same year some undeniable urge saw me at the door of the same organisation. I paid my fee and sat down. The tutor stood at the lectern and began reading from some notes which I later discovered were the recorded words of Leon MacLaren talking with his teacher, a perfected soul who occupied one of the 4 hallowed seats of wisdom in India, in the north. As he spoke it was as if each new sentence was beckoning me home to a place that had once been known and the knowledge of which had been lost. The feeling that rose up internally reminded me of the prodigal son of biblical times. The attraction felt was not to the organisation or the people there but to the words that were being heard. I became a member of that school and remained a member for many years. During the years as a member of Leon MacLaren’s school, every effort would be made to be present each time Leon MacLaren travelled to South Africa where he delivered a series of lectures to his students. His trip to SA was part of a worldwide tour he would conduct each year, quite faithfully. He continued to serve his students in this manner even when his body was barely able to carry itself. This was an act of service hitherto unknown by me.
There were many who loved Mr MacLaren dearly and there were others who seemed to feel quite the opposite at times. Many found him very harsh and a great deal of criticism was at times, if not still today, levelled at the school of philosophy and the man himself. Until a man becomes a perfected soul, he is not perfect, and therefore not all actions would be of a perfect nature – that should be understood. So it is that it becomes quite easy to draw to oneself the imperfections and the negative experiences which brought about discomfort when interacting with Leon MacLaren sometimes. One would hasten to say, however, that if any of those who spoke unkindly about this man and his dedication to humanity should consider the following: Has anyone conspired to put their entire life to one side and embark on an act of supreme service for the sake of others, giving their all to this purpose to the last? After all, it is not he who brings about knowledge and enlightenment in another. His role was simply to point people in a direction which could lead to higher knowledge and greater understanding of the universal law. It was up to each student who heard his teaching to do their own work and follow in the footsteps of a man with a great and clear intellect. The teaching Leon MacLaren brought to so many was not his own. It was a teaching as ancient as time itself, the teachings of the great laws as taught by the wise through the ages, no matter that the teaching seemed different at different times. The greatest teachers who had ever lived taught one and the same Truth. It is this Truth that Leon MacLaren was bringing to his students.
For ordinary man it is almost impossible without a teacher to penetrate the universal laws in a meaningful way. It is he who lit the spark in so many souls and through his consistent teaching over many years; he became the man who launched a thousand souls on the Path towards enlightenment.
After he passed on, his school remained. In my humble opinion, it was not long before his magnificent influence was felt to be absent in the manner in which the organisation and its members conducted themselves. How could it be? There was no longer a true captain at the helm and the link with the holy tradition had too been lost. One cannot blame the school or its members for this but it is simply evident that when the golden connection is lost and the real teacher no longer occupies his seat that this will be felt and the effects would be known.
As for my ordinary self, one of thousands who came under the influence of Leon Maclaren, immeasurable fortune and grace was to come my way. Through the agency of two devoted and caring disciples, my wife and I found ourselves at the principle seat of Supreme and sublime wisdom in India where we were accepted as direct disciples of a perfected soul.