In the 1950s, MacLaren introduced and developed courses in philosophy, which became and have remained the School's principal area of study. Consequently the SES is colloquially referred to as "Philosophy" by its members. Also during the 1950s MacLaren was a member of the Society for the Study of Normal Psychology (now known as the Study Society) , a spiritual organization influenced by the teachings of Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff and P. D. Ouspensky. After meeting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (later to find fame as the Beatles' guru) in London, MacLaren and the Study Society founded the School of Meditation in 1961, to promote the practice of Transcendental Meditation.
In the 1960s the SES's philosophy courses became grounded in Advaita Vedanta following a meeting between Leon MacLaren and Shantanand Saraswati, the 'Shankaracharya of the North', one of the heads of the tradition in India. The Shankaracharya's successor Vasudevananda Saraswati continues to provide spiritual inspiration to the SES today.
Leon MacLaren was succeeded upon his death in 1994 by Donald Lambie, the current leader of the School of Economic Science
During the late 1950s philosophy became the central subject of teaching and practice within the School. It is approached as an essentially practical study, to be applied in daily life. The material presented is drawn from a variety of sources within the philosophical writings and dialogues, scriptures and other literature of East and West, including the Gita, the Upanishads, the Bible, Plato, Marsilio Ficino and Hermes Trismegistus.
The introductory philosophy course covers some basic principles, highlighting the main influences that govern human experience. After the introductory course, the various aspects of the subject are examined more deeply and philosophical texts are studied in detail.
Since the 1960s there has been a connection with a tradition in India that propounds teaching known as advaita vedanta. Advaita means literally "not two"; vedanta refers to the knowledge underlying the creation. Together these are said to explain the essential unity of everything in creation and the source from which it arises. This teaching also speaks of a concept of ‘pure consciousness’ as the true essence of every being, and the human possibility of shedding the covers on this essence to allow it to be expressed in its purity.
The SES runs an annual four day event called Art in Action, also initiated in the 1970s. This brings together artists and craftspeople from many parts of the world and in recent years has attracted between 20,000 and 30,000 visitors a year.
The Education Renaissance Trust , a UK registered charity, was founded by some senior students in the SES in 1998. Its aim is to 'help schools and support teachers who put spiritual values at the heart of education.’
There are currently 19 branches of the School in Great Britain. There are also many associated but legally independent schools overseas.
In 2005, following complaints from a number of former St James Schools pupils on the forum and elsewhere, the Governors of the St James Schools initiated an Inquiry into allegations of mistreatment of children, mostly during the period 1975 to 1985. The Inquiry concluded that there had been 'mental and physical mistreatment' of children, including 'criminal assaults' by some teachers, who were members of the School of Economic Science, but it also reported there had been 'a real change of ethos and conduct of the schools' since then.
Following the rapid growth of the forum and the subsequent internal Inquiry into St James Schools, Channel 4 News investigated the SES schools in 2006. The programme keeps the item on its web site: http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/world/school%20abuse%20inquiry/162790