My Search for the Great School of Masters

A famous writer wrote how had just finished a new book about achieving success and was sitting quietly before his typewriter. He was alone in his study yet heard a voice. The writer, Napoleon Hill, described what happened next:

I whispered: “Who are you?” In a softened voice, which sounded like the chimes of great music, the unseen speaker replied: “I come from the Great School of the Masters. I am one of the Council of Thirty-Three who serve the Great School and its initiates on the physical plane.”

The Great School of the Masters! That is the school of wisdom which has persisted secretly in the Himalayas for ten thousand years. Sometimes known as the Venerable Brotherhood of Ancient India, it is the great central reservoir of religious, philosophical, moral, physical, spiritual and psychical knowledge.


“These Masters,” says J. E. Richardson in The Great Message, “are the Great Teachers who, through all human history, have not only declared their personal knowledge of another life, but have made the personal demonstration of their knowledge in such manner as to leave no possible doubt in the minds of their disciples, or students, as to the fact of that personal knowledge.” (Napoleon Hill, Grow Rich! With Peace of Mind, 159)

And so I heard of the Great School of the Masters (GSM) for the first time. Grow Rich! is something of a compilation of the most effective lessons from Hill’s masterpiece, Think and Grow Rich. However, his mention of the GSM was something new.

Well, I was hooked. Based solely on a hunch I cannot explain, I became determined to find out more about these Masters and their message for mankind. My only lead was this J. E. Richardson fellow and his book, The Great Message.

This was sometime in 1993. I made multiple trips to the library (perhaps several libraries), yet could not find a single reference to Richardson or his book. Remember, this was pre-Internet and card files were in vogue, along with published bibliographies, both of which I spent much of my time searching.

In early 1994, after months of making zero progress in my search, I took a week’s vacation from my job for the sole purpose of finding a copy of The Great Message. I would do nothing else but search for Richardson and his Great Message.

The Howard County Library was named the best library in the nation in 2013. They were just as good back in 1994, although I don’t know if they were so recognized. A wonderful reference librarian, after telling her of my thus far futile search, took an interest in my case.

She went into a back room for a few minutes where she consulted a data base of out of print books. She returned with a dot matrix printout. I had begun to suspect that Hill may have made up the bit about Richardson, but the printout showed that he had written several books, one of which was The Great Message.

The printout showed that another of Richardson’s books, The Reality of Matter, was held in a nearby college with a collection of rare, esoteric books. It was the only Richardson book within an hour’s drive. This, as I remember it, was on a Friday and I had to hurry if I wanted to have enough time to read it before the collection was closed for the weekend.

After driving to the college and learning the rules from a curator (clean hands, no writing instruments allowed near the book, briefcase on the floor), I was handed their copy of The Reality of Matter. I had about an hour to read before they closed.

Richardson confirmed there was a Brotherhood of India (aka, GSM), although Hill called it the Venerable Brotherhood of Ancient India. Close enough. (Actually, Richardson was not the listed author, rather it was someone identified only as TK. Because the bibliography listed Richardson as the author, I assumed that TK was a pseudonym. And this, I soon learned, was the case.)

I was greatly impressed by The Reality of Matter, in which Richardson refutes the contention that matter (our reality) is but an illusion. He used logic, hard-ball logic, in proving his case. From the library printout of Richardson’s work, there appeared to be a Great School of Natural Science (GSNS) which operated under the aegis of the GSM, a school which taught the message of the Masters. And I was to learn that it once operated out of California.

I had no real expectation of actually locating the GSNS. If it had still existed, it would be over 100 years old; an unlikely happenstance for a school of esoteric studies. So, when I called long distance information for the telephone number of the GSNS, it was a genuine shot in the dark.

At first, if I am remembering correctly, the operator couldn’t find anything; then she said she would check again. It was long minutes before she came back on the phone and said, “Yes, here it is,” and gave me the number.

When I called the number, a wonderful (and colorful) gentleman by the name of John Hall answered and we talked for some time. Over the next month or so, I read the Harmonic Series and quickly applied for studentship. As with the Reality of Matter, I found the entire course work to be based, not on dreamy platitudes, but on reason and common sense.

I am not the only student who found the GSNS through Hill’s work. Eight or so of us students, including six graduates, have come to the School via Mr. Hill, specifically through Grow Rich!

Perhaps this is because both the teachings of the GSNS and Hill’s writings are based on self-improvement. Both teach success and happiness, neither of which is inexorably linked to wealth or personal gain — although such things are not ruled out, either. Sometimes the only benefit is Soul Growth, which is entirely enough as it would fall under the heading of personal gain.

– JW

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