People from all walks of life came to the School on the strength of the advertisements in the tube and in the papers. Those who had no tertiary education were attracted to the wealth of knowledge in the School. This was particularly noticeable in the 1950’s after the War. Leon MacLaren was a great educator. Apart from the Philosophy, which remained the central subject, courses of all kinds were presented and everyone could take part in them. A number of subjects had been re-opened in new ways and related back to their origins.
Music was one of them and an important element in his teaching. Leon MacLaren was a natural musician from birth. He played the piano from the age of three, later taking up the saxophone and playing in jazz bands as a young man. There is a musical scale commonly known as the octave of Just Intonation. This musical scale has been known since the time of Pythagoras (5th Century B.C.) and is built on simple numerical relationships. Gurdjieff had spoken of it and Ouspensky had expounded it in terms of the Law of Seven and the Cosmic Scale. Now LM saw the possibility of making it work in practice calling it ‘the Natural Octave”. Thus all students were taught to learn the numbers and sing the natural harmonies to perfection. He took it a step further and composed a number of major works for choir and orchestra, based on this natural octave. The challenge for the musicians was that they had to retune their instruments and sing the right notes! Despite strong resistance, especially from some professional musicians, he insisted on it and conducted the first performances himself. One of the works, “In the Beginning” was broadcast by the A.B.C. in Australia. It was his way of demonstrating the universal principles, which were invaluable for those who discovered their application in life.
Further educational programs were undertaken. Encouraged by his Teacher he opened up the field of Sanskrit Grammar and made it accessible to ordinary housewives who learnt to chant the ancient sutras. Mathematics was studied through a system of Vedic Mathematics to exercise the mind. Works of the Renaissance scholar Marsilio Ficino were rediscovered and a group was formed to translate his letters under his guidance. Equally so with Hermes Trismegistus’ Poimandres. These translations were published and highly recommended by university scholars.
All this educational activity led to a request from the parents in the School whether he would support the formation of a School for children. And thus with a supreme effort from many people the St.James Independent Schools were founded. At first he took a lively interest in them, supervising everything from the personal progress of the children to the design of their school uniforms. Later he withdrew from the scene and left it to others. The Schools are still thriving today.