The mission of the School for Esoteric Studies is to provide structured, sequenced esoteric discipleship training, grounded in Ageless Wisdom teachings and designed to produce World Servers.
How the School Began
The School for Esoteric Studies was founded in 1956 in New York City. The co-founders – Frank Hilton, Regina Keller, Florence Garrigue, Helen Hillebrecht, and Margaret Schaefer – had been trained in the Arcane School and had then worked closely with Alice and Foster Bailey on the staff.
After Alice Bailey’s passing in December 1949 and the unexpected death of her handpicked successor, Barbara Enos, Foster Bailey continued functioning as interim director of the Arcane School. This was in addition to his other duties, among which was running the Lucis Publishing Company that publishes the books by Master Djwhal Khul and Alice Bailey. An advanced student and new staff member named Mary Turner provided much assistance to Mr. Bailey and, increasingly, influenced the direction the Arcane School would take as the future unfolded. In time, she became the official director and Foster Bailey’s second wife.
During the crucial five years after Alice Bailey’s death, two views surfaced among the leaders of the Arcane School concerning the future of esoteric training. Those staff members who espoused the view that the Spiritual Hierarchy needed workers who were trained in the deeper and more advanced aspects of modern esoteric teaching turned out to be in the minority.
Rather than relinquishing this vision, several of the group resigned from the Arcane School, rented office space a few blocks away in Manhattan, and began to assemble the new lesson materials. They chose a name for the new school that, although it was rather long, reflected the purpose behind the founding impulse – in-depth study of the deeper teachings.
During the initial years of activity, the School project developed and took definite form as the School for Esoteric Studies' founding members co-drafted materials for the different courses. Their group work involved both exchanging written communication and establishing subjective rapport within the Group Soul, a process that continues within the School for Esoteric Studies (SES) today. At the same time, group participants were actively engaged in related initiatives in support of the Plan including research, intergroup collaborative projects, and publishing.
Frank Hilton, who had authored several esoteric articles for The Beacon by 1956 and had extensive training experience, became the first Chairperson of SES. He was also a co-Director of the Psychosynthesis Research Foundation (PRF), which he founded with Roberto Assagioli and directed from 1957 to 1976. Hilton's collaboration with others in the esoteric and psychological fields was seminal for the publishing of a wide range of materials, journals, and books. He was also influential in developing SES' Approach to Group Initiation (AGI) initiative, which provided a foundation for developing additional advanced courses.
Another of the SES co-founders, Regina Keller (a Hungarian-American lawyer) had worked closely with Alice Bailey, helping with secretarial work, tutoring advanced students, reviewing drafts of the Blue Books, and writing articles for The Beacon. She was also a very active member of the Friday meetings organized by Alice Bailey, and it is thanks to her recording and transcription of the meetings that the Alice Bailey Talks were preserved. As an advanced disciple, Regina Keller was keen on "the dissemination of the Teaching on the mental plane" (as she wrote in a letter dated March 1961). In addition to her work with SES, she helped launch several other important esoteric initiatives including Meditation Mount, which was later developed by Florence Garrigue (another SES co-founder), and in the field of social work in orphanages. Within SES, she tutored senior students, handled correspondence, and established collaborative relationships with individuals and other groups. She also strengthened the role of the Commentators Group that is today the "Heart" of the School. Discipleship in the New Age, Volume 1 is dedicated by Alice Bailey "to Regina Keller, a fellow-disciple who for more than twenty years has walked with me upon the way." In describing her future role, the Tibetan wrote to Regina: "The gift of wise teaching is your gift to my group - a wisdom, divorced from criticism, coupled also to the reticence of the trained occultist." Regina was an advanced disciple who preferred to work silently, behind the scenes. The guidance of her Soul is ever present among us, and we are grateful for her ongoing spiritual support.
Dr. Roberto Assagioli (founder of Psychosynthesis), while not one of the original SES co-founders, was an active SES member and advisor from the School's beginning. His collaborative work with Frank Hilton resulted in the formulation of the Will Course that is still, in a revised format, part of the more advanced Arc of Training at the School.
In 1996, the office headquarters of the School for Esoteric Studies relocated to Asheville, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 2012, the School widened its outreach to include website materials and discipleship training in English, Italian, and Spanish. In 2014 it launched a new round of intergroup collaboration initiatives.
The School continues to bring the Ageless Wisdom teachings to a wider public via this website and to mentor students on the spiritual Path worldwide. Ongoing esoteric research is at the heart of the School's mission, including updating, translating, and developing both original and new course materials, based on the Ageless Wisdom and contributions from the fields of psychology, science and the humanities.