THE LIVING TEACHING
As a young man, Leon MacLaren had been affected by seeing the poverty in the streets during the depression of the thirties, but later he discovered that there was even greater poverty in the mind and heart of humanity at large. The questions, ‘Who am I’, ‘Why am I here?’ were essential for human development and gave people a chance to search for the meaning of life. Leon MacLaren was in a good position to assist this. The knowledge of the esoteric teaching was available to him and he had the ability as a writer and a speaker to turn it into a practical system for the ordinary man. One of the principles of the teaching was the Law of Seven, or the law of octaves. The Law of Seven says that for the completion of any action seven steps have to be taken with the necessary impulses at two intervals. It is said that these are impulses from outside. If they do not occur or are not recognized, the octave and therefore the action cannot be completed. Thus in Leon MacLaren’s endeavour to establish the School there were two main impulses. The first was when he came into contact with Ouspensky’s teaching and the second when he was introduced to the Advaita Vedanta tradition through Shantananda Saraswati. Leon MacLaren’s life was a demonstration of the Law of Seven, of completing everything he undertook.
One of the fundamental doctrines which both the Eastern and Western streams adhered to was that human beings can be divided into three categories: guts, head and heart, or, active, intellectual and emotional. The Teaching stated that one needed to create a balance between these three in order to lead a harmonious existence. He himself played the three roles to the full, which was the reason why he rose above mediocrity.
“When a man is all head, he cannot do anything, despite his theories.
When he is all guts, he never stops doing and is forever running his poor head into brick walls. When he is all heart, he wanders ineffectually through the sentimental swamp of non comprehension. To be all one is hopeless, all three are necessary.” (Leon MacLaren)
Physical work played an essential part in the School’s programme, just as it had done in Gurdjieff’s and Ouspensky’s days. Country estates, Stanhill Court, Waterperry House and Nanpanton Hall, were rented or acquired which were in need of repair or reconstruction. Working weekends and weeks were held providing abundant opportunity for people to handle tools they had not previously used and to perform tasks they had never done before such as woodwork, stonemasonry, calligraphy and gardening to name a few. There were a number of principles for work:
work with the utmost attention and not to stop until one was told to.
work for and with others,
work for the sake of the work and not for any result,
The overall structure of the weekends and weeks was to provide a balance between the three centres.
H.H. had made the comment: “A School for its own benefit must help the Leader so that he can experience himself. A Leader must find this before he can pass it on to anybody else.” Mindful of this, LM had familiarized himself with the material he received from his Teacher and was selective in what he passed on to his groups. In the same way that he depended on his Teacher, his students depended on him. Thus the chain of passing on the knowledge was kept intact. Fortunately for him the groups were slow to absorb the teaching:
“There is this awful period that goes on and on, when we hear the beautiful words of the teaching, we acknowledge them, they are obviously right, it is lovely to hear them and we even recite them to others on occasion…….but you know we do not really believe them. We have got another set of ideas, which we use for practical purposes.” (Leon MacLaren).
But his students were not content with selective readings of the conversations and wanted to have the material from H.H. themselves. For almost a decade he resisted pleas for the conversations to be distributed amongst the groups. He knew the value of the oral tradition which had carried the Teaching for thousands of years and was loathe to release it into the arena of the mechanical Western mind, where it could easily lose its value. Finally he gave way. He chose the most arduous method, but one which in his eyes would least violate the tradition from whence it came. He dictated the 1965 conversations to his assistant, who took it down by hand and then made a fair copy in Roman calligraphy. The whole project took a year to complete. But the beauty of it was that it was still the spoken word which had been passed on and the fact that it had been handwritten meant that every word had been heard. This was only one instance of the meticulous and sincere way in which he worked.