COMPANION

Gerald Stanley Lee

Gerald Stanley Lee (1862–1944), US clergyman, author of popular books, and a pupil of F. M. Alexander.

Life

Gerald Stanley Lee was an American Congregational clergyman of puritan background. He was a preacher in several churches in New England and Minnesota before resigning from the pulpit in 1896 to dedicate himself to writing. He was the author of numerous popular books and essays. He married Jennette Barbour Perry in 1896 (who also became a pupil of Alexander and went on to teach her own version of the Technique).

His first successful book was Inspired Millionaires (1908) which argued for the role that millionaires could play in promoting social progress.

Crowds: A Moving-Picture of Democracy (1913)

Crowds was a best seller and Lee’s most successful book. In Lord of Attention Gregroy W. Bush places this book in its historical context. It was part of a cultural shift of looking at ‘crowds’. Until the late 1900 century crowds were perceived as a potential dangerous unorganised mass of people, a pack or a mob, who easily could become unruly and riot. The issue of ‘crowds’ became a cause of concern as the urban population increased rapidly and manifold. In the early 20th century ‘crowds’ became reframed as having a positive influence as consumers, shopping, going on holiday, going to the theatre and the circus, and hence contributing to the economy. Advertising, public relations – ‘attention engineering’ – became seen as a force for good as it could turn a listless crowd into consumers, thereby create social cohesion, for the common good of the country. A study of the book and its influence on current culture was examined in a 1991 book, Lord of Attention: Gerald Stanley Lee and the Crowd Metaphor in Industrializing America.[1]

Lee tried to follow up his success with The Ghost in the White House (1920), on the kind of president the US should have.

However, Lee’s writings did not have a lasting impact, partly because Lee always argued for an archtypical heroic leader to guide the masses who were unable to help themselves, and it was a view which fell out of favour already in Lee’s lifetime as advertising and mass marketing came into its own as a profession.

Connection with Alexander

He and his wife, Jennette Barbour Lee (1867–1951) had lessons with Alexander during a period of 18 months after WWI.[2]

Inspired by the lessons Lee included several references to Alexander, including a description of having lessons with Alexander, in his The Ghost in the White House (1920).[3] Other passages appear to be inspired by Alexander’s views (e.g. the chapter title ‘Conscious control of brain tracks’).

This is an excerpt of his impressions of having lessons with Alexander:

Then he [Alexander] lays hands on you once more and works and you feel him working slowly and subtly on you once more, all the while giving orders to you softly not to help him, not to butt in soul and body on what he is doing to them with your preconceived ideas – ideas he is trying to cure you of, of what you think you think when you are thinking with what you suppose is your mind, and what you suppose you are doing with what you suppose is your body. In other words, he gives you most strenuously to understand that the one helpful thing that you can do with what you call your mind or what you call your body is to back away from them both all you can. As it is you and your ideas mostly that are what is the matter with your mind and body, and with the way you admit they are not getting on together, Alexander’s first lessons with you you find are largely occupied in getting your mind – your terrible and beautiful mind which does such queer things to you, to back away. What he really wants of you is to have you let him make a present to you outright of certain new psycho-physical experiences, which he cannot possibly get in, if you insist on slipping yours in each time instead. So he keeps working on you, you all the while trying to help in soul and body by being as much like putty – a kind of transcendental putty as you can, or as you dare, without falling apart before your own eyes. Then when you have removed all obstructions and preconceptions in your own mind – and will stop preventing him from doing it, he places your body in an entirely new position and subjects you to a physical experience in sitting, standing and walking, you have never dreamed you could have before.[4]

Two years later Lee wrote Invisible Exercises – Seven Studies in Self Command With Practical Suggestions and Drills (1922) which omits any reference to Alexander and in which he claims to have developed principles and procedures (similar to those of the Alexander Technique) himself. It contains ‘drills’ for sitting down, lying down, walking, standing, and sleeping. Frank P. Jones relates the story in his Freedom to Change.[5] According to Jones it was Lee’s appropriation of Alexander’s procedures that spurred Alexander to write what became the chapter on hands on the back of the chair in CCC.

The following quotes from Invisible Exercises give a flavour of Lee’s writings.

Exercise is coordination – the coordination of mind and body. What coordinate the mind and the body the most, the most quickly and the most easily, gives the most exercise.[6]

On the exercise of rising up on the toes:

The toes and rising on the toes did not seem to have much to do with it. The thing that got the result apparently was something in the back – in the stretching, heightening and widening of the back.[7]

The only thing that can make a man, while he is carrying his body, feel light, is single control. The only possible way to get single control is to string up, or one might almost say tune up, the parts of the body to where they belong on the spine until they are so light and so play together, they hardly know they are there.[8]

Of course, when with a powerful horse to help me, I was practically tossed, almost dislocated, in to a position where I involuntarily stretched my head forward and up and lengthened and widened my back . . .[9]

Of course, as the reader already knows, I am doing my best in this book to dramatize if I can, and even make catching if I can, the idea of inhibition, of stopping to think, of conceiving and visualizing an action before the action as a means of hurrying it.[10]

What a man finally comes to in the whole matter of exercise, if he pursues and finds the position of mechanical advantage and lives with it from day to day, is not merely a new point of view about exercise itself, but a whole new outlook on life.[11]

In Lee’s next book, Rest Working (1925), he moved on to the importance of the glands, and of ‘balancing the glands’. To balance the glands one has to balance the body:

Balancing concentrates restfully the mind and the body in the same act. Balancing being the most effortless thing anybody can do with a body, is an act which naturally induces relaxing the neck. Relaxing the neck induces the relaxing (in just the right place) of the back. Relaxing the back – that is: removing its inflexibility – makes it possible for the back to stretch to its full length and assert its full command over the body.[12]

He also discusses the importance of the head:

Then the head being balanced and allowed to take its own balance, naturally began doing its balancing as a head likes to – higher and higher up.[13]

G. S. Lee’s wife, Jennette Lee, taught and wrote about a her own body system, which also has many resemblances with the Alexander Technique. Together they ran a training school for Balance and Coordination (also called the Coordination Guild) in New York 1925–33.[14]

Writings

Frank P. Jones relates the story of G. S. Lee and F. M. Alexander in his Freedom to Change.[15]

Extracts from The Ghost in the White House by Gerald Stanley Lee, which mentions the Alexander Technique is available as an online PDF.[16]

Lord of Attention: Gerald Stanley Lee and the Crowd Metaphor in Industrializing America by Gregory Wallace Bush.[17]

Gerald Stanley Lee *4 October 1862 – †3 April 1944.

See also Jennette Lee.

References

[1] Lord of Attention: Gerald Stanley Lee and the Crowd Metaphor in Industrializing America by Gregory Wallace Bush (University of Massachusetts Press, 1991).
[2] Freedom to Change [Body Awareness in Action] by Frank Pierce Jones (Mouritz, 1997 [1976]), p. 37.
[3] The Ghost in the White House by Gerald Stanley Lee (2007, BiblioBazaar; first published by Dutton in 1920).
[4] The Ghost in the White House by Gerald Stanley Lee (2007, BiblioBazaar; first published by Dutton in 1920), pp. 152–53.
[5] Freedom to Change [Body Awareness in Action] by Frank Pierce Jones (Mouritz, 1997 [1976]), p. 37–38.
[6] Invisible Exercises by Gerald Stanley Lee (E. P. Dutton, 1922), p. 34
[7] Invisible Exercises by Gerald Stanley Lee (E. P. Dutton, 1922), p. 37.
[8] Invisible Exercises by Gerald Stanley Lee (E. P. Dutton, 1922), p. 49.
[9] Invisible Exercises by Gerald Stanley Lee (E. P. Dutton, 1922), p. 68.
[10] Invisible Exercises by Gerald Stanley Lee (E. P. Dutton, 1922), p. 106.
[11] Invisible Exercises by Gerald Stanley Lee (E. P. Dutton, 1922), p. 159.
[12] Rest Working – A Study in Relaxed Concentration (The Coordination Guild, 1925), pp. 117–18.
[13] Rest Working – A Study in Relaxed Concentration (The Coordination Guild, 1925), p. 67.
[14] Lord of Attention: Gerald Stanley Lee and the Crowd Metaphor in Industrializing America by Gregory Wallace Bush (University of Massachusetts Press, 1991), p. xv.
[15] Freedom to Change [Body Awareness in Action] by Frank Pierce Jones (Mouritz, 1997 [1976]), p. 37–38.
[17] Lord of Attention: Gerald Stanley Lee and the Crowd Metaphor in Industrializing America by Gregory Wallace Bush (University of Massachusetts Press, 1991).