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With Friends Like These

A respondent wrote:

« Perhaps Alexander had good reason for a wariness toward letting some ... academy dissect his Technique. »

I gather from reading various biographical accounts that Alexander was very reluctant  even when offered the opportunity  to associate himself with a research foundation or other large organization over which he would have no control.  Considering that among the promoters of these plans were John Dewey and Stafford Cripps, we can be glad of it.

In Lulie Westfeldt’s venemous book F. Mathias Alexander:  The Man and His Work (1964) she tells of Stafford Cripps, the Fabian Socialist, and his proposal to form an Alexander Society, in which FM would have one vote (one  count ’em).  “[FM] refused to give it his support.”  FM was obviously right not to lend his personal reputation and the future of his work to such a scheme.  But to her he was obviously wrong:  “This very worthwhile project failed. ...  A colleague who was present told me that Sir Stafford replied:   ‘After all, F.M., we do live in a democratic country.’ ”  Doubtless teachers owe the integrity of the Technique today to Alexander’s intransigence then, in this and other matters as well.


From The Alexander Technique (The Alexander Principle in Great Britain.) by Wilfred Barlow, page 213:

“The Alexander Principle, which seeks to change habit at the very moment of reaction, is bound to have an impact on anyone who attempts it, and there have been many and varied attempts by different people to give it a style that fitted their own temperament. [Aldous] Huxley’s ‘non-attachment’;  Dewey’s brand of pragmatism;  Stafford Cripp’s austere Christian Socialism;  Bernard Shaw’s Life Force;  [Anthony] Ludovici’s ‘race of mental giants’;  the rationalism of a few minor rationalists;  the opportunism of a score of European and American ‘therapists,’ who thought it was a bandwagon but found it was a bed of nails;  the short-cutters in the world of speech training and physical education, who listened impatiently to all that talk about end-gaining;  and above all, the crackpots  carnivorous, herbivorous, astrologizing, worshiping ... . He once said to me,  ‘If there is a crackpot within fifty miles, he will find his way to me.’ ”

“It is a miracle that it survived some of this bunch ... .”  [*]

*  Unfortunately Dr. Barlow is no better than some of those he criticizes.  To the list above one could add:  “Barlow’s brand of behavioral psychology.”