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Edmund Hillary and Radiant Living


Edmund Hillary (left) and Herbert Sutcliffe, 1940

The Hillary family and Radiant Living

The Auckland School of Radiant Living was founded in 1938, and this was one of the first of these schools established in New Zealand. Everyone in the Hillary family was a member. Gertrude, Edmund Hillary's mother, was the first secretary and reported the early progress of the school's hall in the international Radiant Living magazine.

The atmosphere of the hall was distinctly associated with beauty and peace. After the first meeting, the vibrations were wonderful, and now the effect on any member entering the Hall is instantly spiritual and uplifting.

The ladies' dressing room is furnished with a large, handsome mirror, a special large electric toilet light over the mirror; 120 nickel-plated coat-hooks, and a long seat. The windows are curtained similarly to those of the Hall. The men's dressing room is similarly furnished, but smaller, with 90 hooks. The kitchen is furnished with a large gas stove (a gift), 120 cups and saucers of excellent china, benches and shelves. A servery opens direct into the hall.

All members were thrilled with the rooms, and their care of them, and their supply of a plentitude of beautiful fresh flowers in glass vases testify to their happiness in their new home. The school programmes have been dynamic and have created wonderful impressions on members and visitors. We will write you a special note shortly when we reach our 200th member. The new members are not being especially sought by us, they seek the school as a result of the school teaching.

The Hillary family was involved until the mid-1940s. The Wellington school was started in 1942 after a summer school at Marsden College. Percy Hillary reported:


A Wonderful Success.

New Zealand Bright sunshine, tempered by cool sea breezes, extensive views of hills and valleys clothed with trees and colourful gardens in which were set a myriad of pretty homes, created a most attractive environment for the Radiant Living International Summer School of 1940–41. Marsden College, in which the school was held, comprised a group of large red brick buildings of the latest design, relieved with the greenery of creepers, and set in spacious grounds that glowed with the colours of flowering shrubs and plants, with the great splashes of red of the native tree (Pohutukawa), and with various shades of green of many lovely trees. The lawns were very attractive in their bright green, and a large swimming pool and tennis courts, with playing fields, provided opportunity for recreation.


The many students arrived full of eagerness and enthusiasm to be given a radiant, smiling greeting by the Founder, Dr Herbert Sutcliffe, and Miss Dorothy Law, International Secretary … The daily menus were a revelation (in catering) to the students, comprising wonderful salads and tempting dishes prepared from fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, etc. delivered daily. There were oranges, lemons, peaches, apples, cherries, raspberries, plums, lettuce, watercress, parsley, spring onions, carrots, parsnips, radishes, red beets, string beans, broad beans, vegetable marrow, baked potatoes etc. The meals were served in a spacious dining hall and were enlivened by spontaneous outbursts of happy, rhythmic songs in which all joined, creating a bright atmosphere of happiness and good comradeship.

Doctor Sutcliffe … gave his complete course of lessons in four series: Health Course, Character Types, Mental Science, and Psycho-Cosmology. The thoroughness, patience, depth of knowledge, logic and soundness of the Founder were easily discernable in these marvellous instructional courses. The students had to work, and work hard, in their endeavour to assimilate this veritable feast of knowledge. In the Physical Culture Class nineteen of the students passed a test by touching their toes (from lying-on-back position) 150 times, amongst them being Mrs. G., a lady 72 years of age. She was given a great ovation.


Radiant Living, Aug/Sept 1953

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