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School of Radiant Living

Page 7 – Edmund Hillary

One of the first New Zealand schools of Radiant Living was established in Auckland. Its secretary was Gertrude Hillary who reported progress early in 1939. For a few years the whole Hillary family was involved with Radiant Living. A son, Edmund, aged 19 in 1939, trained as an Accredited Teacher of Radiant Living and was briefly Herbert Sutcliffe's assistant.

From Radiant Living Aug/Sept 1953:

Radiant Living, Hillary and Mount Everest

By Herbert Sutcliffe, D.Sc.

As Edmund Hillary (now Sir Edmund) is inevitably linked with the top of Mount Everest, so is Radiant Living connected with Sir Edmund. We all know that the past assuredly qualifies the present and influences the future. Therefore a few records of his association with Radiant Living Teaching, will enable us to glimpse the influence it has had upon him and thus upon his subsequent exploits.

Enthusiastic Student

In 1938, when Sir Edmund was 19 years of age he attended my classes in Auckland. He became an inaugural member of the School formed in September of that year. In fact all the members of the Hillary family, his father, mother, sister and brother enrolled as members, became teachers and subsequently four of the family sat for and passed the examination for Associated Teacher of Radiant Living. (A.T.R.L. degree).

Sir Edmund threw himself wholeheartedly into the Radiant Living, studies and it is interesting to note his remarkable success by the gaining of the following marks in his 1941 A.T.R.L. examination:

  • Health
  • Everyday Psychology
  • Psycho-Cosmology
  • Letters to Students
  • Physical Exercises
  • Lecturing Ability*
: 98%
: 98%
: 100%
: 100%
: 91%
: 100%

*Inferiority-cause and cure It seems to be a tribute to this man, now world renowned, and to the Teaching itself that he became so highly qualified as a Teacher and that the value of the Science and Philosophy came to him at a very important period of his life, when he was 19 years old. For five years, from 1938 to 1943, he was closely associated with the Auckland School, as also were the other members of his family. I am glad to have on record the many times they testified to the fact that Radiant Living came into their lives bringing harmony and understanding to each member of the family and the family as a whole just when it was most needed.

Campaign Assistant

Father Percy Hillary was so appreciative that he requested me to take Edmund with me on lecture campaigns because he could not think of anything better for Edmund's future. I readily agreed to this and Edmund commenced as my assistant during the Gisborne Campaign in 1940. A photograph of the two of us was taken at that time. This link was unfortunately interrupted by war service. Therefore, as Teacher, and for a time, Secretary of the Auckland School, and as my campaign assistant, it can he rightly said that Radiant Living fashioned his life during his 20s and gave him a physical, psychological and philosophical background which took him to the top of Mount Everest. These facts as to the influence Radiant Living had upon his life may not interest the man in the street, but Radiant Livers will surely be interested in the link between Radiant Living and Mount Everest.

I Can

You will note that in 1941 his test lecture was entitled "Inferiority Cause and Cure". I remember his closing exhortation theme was "I can!" The subject of his extempore lecture was "Intuition and Inspiration". His closing declaration was "Nothing can prevent us from reaching our desired goal". It is not difficult to imagine that when he subsequently interested himself in mountain climbing, the letter to Students in the booklet Series 5 entitled "Service from the Heights" which was a par of his studies gave him a vision, an ideal and an aim.

Sir Edmund Hillary describes his own experience

‘A Dr Herbert Sutcliffe was in town and he was talking about a new philosophy - Radiant Living. My family and I went along to his first lecture and were very impressed. It was a combination of Christianity, psychology and health and fitness and it just seemed to fit our needs at the time. We became members and when Dr Sutcliffe introduced training classes I qualified first in the course and became a Teacher of Radiant Living. I gained quite a lot from Radiant Living - I learned to speak confidently from the platform and even started thinking more freely on important topics. But finally my enthusiasm faded, as it always seemed to do. I developed the conviction that I was trying to escape from ordinary life, so I reluctantly withdrew from the organisation.’

From Hillary, E. View from the Summit, Doubleday, London, 1999

How to cite this page

Edmund Hillary, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated