Goblinboy wrote:Another very readable book which has a section devoted to the SES is Madame Blavatsky's Baboon: A History of the Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America by Peter Washington (Schocken Books, New York, NY, 1995)
The book provides a lot of context for the emergence of the SES from its theosophical and Gurdjieff / Ouspensky origins.
An extract from the above book:
?There are flourishing branches in the United States, Australia and several European countries and the SES also runs children's schools and intensive training-courses for adults.
The School of Economic Science now has all the features of a cult. This became clear in 1983, when scandal erupted over the management of the children's schools. At first, most parents were impressed by the standards of order and politeness, their emphasis on hard work and obedience, and their comparatively low fees. Attitudes began to change when it transpired that what they had taken to be ordinary independent schools were, in fact, instructing children in the tenets of Economic Science according to MacLaren's rule of Measure. This entails interpreting all subjects - including physics and chemistry - in terms of Gurdjieffian cosmology; teaching even the youngest children Indian philosophy and Sanskrit; conducting an exceptionally rigorous regime of attendance, costume and homework, enforced by frequent corporal punishment; and effectively indoctrinating every child in the principles of the SES.
The scandal was prompted by a series of articles published in the London Evening Standard during 1982, reported in turn by other papers, which quoted parents complaining of savage punishments and bizarre homework assignments which seemed to consist largely of ideas from ?oriental? philosophy to be learnt by rote. They also remarked on the vegetarian meals served to pupils, in which the ingredients were strictly controlled by Hindu dietary law. Outraged Anglican clergymen weighed into the row, suggesting that the SES was a wicked Hindu cult plotting against Christianity. The Bishop of Woolwich called it evil and corrupt. Though many parents were agnostic or Jewish, some took the hint and withdrew their children. Others stayed on. The schools, which were not technically in breach of Department of Education and Science guidelines, have survived with substantial donations by SES members. Their supporters insist thai they are simply returning to old-fashioned values of discipline and hard work. Opponents accuse the SES of combining brainwashing, cruelly and the enforcement of conformity with the teaching of preposterous nonsense in place of the ordinary school curriculum.
At the heart of the row is the argument over Measure, the central feature of all SES teaching for children and adults alike. Measure is adapted from Ouspensky's systematic interpretation of Gurdjieffs doctrine, and consists of a complex, rigid and demanding set of rules governing every aspect of an SES member's life, from his diet and musical taste to his sexual behaviour. According to MacLaren, these rules correspond to the natural laws governing the universe: by observing them we thereby promote the good of the cosmos. In practice they are fiercely repressive, and at the same time conservative and eccentric, stressing the traditional roles of the sexes (down to the wearing of long skins for women), insisting on the central role of Sanskrit chanting in education, and rejecting contemporary culture in toto (especially television, dancing and 'modern', i.e. post-Shakespearian, literature).
The rules are administered by 'personal tutors' to whom members report and owe absolute obedience.7 The tutors are in turn organised by group leaders who have the authority to demand more or less anything from their charges. Group leaders take their instruction from MacLaren's assistants. Like the Work, the SES is obsessively hierarchical: the ruling elders submit absolutely to MacLaren, who supposedly submits himself to the teaching of the Shankaracharya. And like Gurdjieff, MacLaren alternates between the roles of stern teacher, mysterious power, loving father, charismatic leader and remote autocrat.
The need for Measure is founded on MacLaren's belief that men are put on earth to serve the Absolute, though they generally prove incapable of doing so. The Absolute is manifested throughout the cosmos by the natural laws identified by the SES, but it is all too often obscured by human ignorance and indifference, which are thus responsible for the evil which mars both our own lives and the evolution of creation. The function of the SES is to illuminate ignorance and dispel indifference. Observing the rules of Measure clarifies the role of natural laws in the universe and thus promotes the well-being of the Absolute - which in turn sustains the life of the righteous. Those who follow Measure hope to become part of the Inner Circle of Mankind - a group which clearly derives from the Theosophical Brotherhood of Masters.