COMPANION

Religion, Spirituality

The Alexander Technique – as a process for conscious control – is non-religious, but many people have seen similarities and common themes between some religions and some philosophies.

Alexander’s view on religion

At the beginning of the first chapter of MSI, Alexander states that his technique is non-religious:

Speculation as to what first influenced that strange and wonderful development [the evolution of humans] does not come within the province of this treatise, but I should like in passing to point out that the theory and practice of my system are influenced by no particular religion nor school of philosophy, but in one sense may be said to embrace them all.[1]

In UCL Alexander writes that the process of change involved in learning the Technique involves ‘detachment’ similarly to that of the mystics:

The crux of the matter is that change demands the use of procedures which are unfamiliar, and in my long experience I have never met a person who, in attempting to carry out a decision to make a given change, was sufficiently endowed with the ability – which the mystics choose to call ‘detachment’ – to keep to that decision, however well-considered, if the procedures decided upon as necessary to make the change were not in keeping with habitual use. We have heard much of the word ‘detachment’, which has long since been a watchword of the mystics. Hence I here suggest that only those who become capable of translating into practice what is involved in the procedure just described can justly claim to have experienced detachment in the basic sense.[2]

(For a note on detachment, also called non-attachment, as practised by mystics, see endnote 16 in UCL.[3])

The above statement may well have been inspired by Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy (1937) which mentions the Alexander Technique. The book was an inspiration for the New Age Movement, of which Sir George Trevelyan was an early pioneer.

Privately, Alexander was not religious in a coventional sense. Walter Carrington suggests that Alexander’s non-religious views was caused by the painful death of a younger brother. For more detail on this and on Alexander’s view on religion, whether he was agnostic or not, see Personally Speaking [4] and Explaining the Alexander Technique.[5]

Alexander’s references to the Bible

Alexander made references to the Bible in his writings and in his teaching:

‘It is the old story of the seven devils.’[6] (Referring to Matthew 12:43-45.)

‘For the good that would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.’[7] (Romans 7:19-25.)

Binkley writes in his diary of his lessons with Alexander: ‘After quoting several passages in the Bible that attribute bad conduct to being “stiff-necked,” Alexander said: “Yes, it’s all there.”’[8]

Pupils of Alexander

The Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple (1881-1944), was a pupil of F. M. Alexander, but did not write on the Alexander Technique.

In ‘The Alexander principle and some spiritual disciplines’ Fr Geoffrey Curtis writes that Christianity ‘would gain tremendously by the general use of the Alexander Technique’, in three ways:

1. provides unity for the soul and body, 2. the practice of faith (‘You are to give your orders and not do anything to implement them. Leave that to what, to whom?—to the unknown Origin.’), and 3. learning paying careful attention to the means-whereby (and so ensuring ‘the living, moment to moment, of the eschatological life’.[9]

A correspondence between Fr Geoffrey Curtis and Wilfred Barlow on the process of ordering was also published.[10]

Writings – Articles

Writings on religion and spirituality are predominantly personal, spanning several disciplines, rather than analytical and academic.

  • George Bowden’s 1965 homage to Alexander is chiefly Perennialism.[11]
  • Patrick Macdonald likens non-doing (‘letting IT do it’) in the Alexander Technique with a Zen way of learning archery,[12] as described in Zen in the Art of Archery (1953) by Eugene Herrigel.
  • ‘Similarities between Krishnamurti's teachings and the F. M. Alexander Technique’ by Jean M. O. Fischer, a comparison of means and ends of the two methods.[13]
  • ‘The Alexander Technique and the principles of self-transformation’ by Alex Maunder; an introduction to the Technique with some spiritual elements.[14]
  • ‘The spiritual dimensions of the Alexander Technique’ by Patty de Llosa covers some similarities between spiritual journeys and disciplines and the Technique.[15]
  • ‘The Technique as personal cultivation: a Japanese perspective’ by Fumie Hosoi compares aspects of the Alexander Technique with Zen Buddhism and Japanese traditional arts.[16]
  • ‘The Embodied Liturgist’, a thesis by Sandra Dager, argues that the presiders’ ‘postural use of themselves and the dynamic workings of kinesthetic energy patterns affect liturgical presiding and play a major role in what is communicated to the assembly.’[17]
  • ‘Direction meets Kavvanah’ by Kate Judd on the results of applying the Alexander Technique to Jewish prayer with a group of six people.[18]
  • ‘Using the Alexander Technique in liturgy and teaching’ by Father Alcuin Scharchenmayr; a Cistercian monk relates the benefits of the Alexander Technique in the article.[19]
  • ‘The primary matter in buddhism and the Alexander Technique’ by Mike Cross; on applying the Technique to sitting in Zazen.[20]
  • ‘Spirituality Part One’ by Claude AnShin Thomas; a talk on spiritual realities from the viewpoint of Buddha’s teaching.[21]
  • ‘Spirituality Part Two’ by Purna Steinitz; on his own training as a student of Lee Lozowick, a western Baul Master.[22]
  • ‘Spirituality and the Alexander Technique’ by Andreas Kreymeier; on the stage-play The Curtain based on the J. G. Frazer quotation in the opening paragraph of MSI, and notes from the workshop at the Congress itself.[23]
  • ‘Tapping into the well of Chi’ by Alexander Farkas considers Alexander’s direction and unimpeded chi flow as one and the same.[24]

Articles in Direction magazines with Spirituality as a theme:

  • ‘Stepping off a 100 feet pole’ by Daigaku Rummé; a Zen monk and a pupil of the Alexander Technique compare the two.[25]
  • ‘Every moment Alexander’ by R. D. Walshe compares John Dewey, Krishnamurti, Lao Tzu, Gurdjieff, Rudolf Steiner, F. M. Alexander, A. E. Housman and humanistic psychology.[26]
  • ‘The secular technique’ by Mark Wester argues that the Technique is not inherently spiritual.[27]
  • ‘The place we never leave’ by Betsy Polatin compars spiritual practice and Alexander practice and concluding they are not so different.[28]
  • ‘A spiritual path’ by Wade Alexander relates the experience of studying both the Alexander Technique and A Course of Miracles.[29]
  • ‘The path is always present’ by Debra Cash exames the congruence between direction and tshuvah during Yom Kippur.[30]
  • ‘Synchronising body and mind’ by Hope Martin; on Alexander Technique and Buddhist meditation.[31]

Writings – Books

  • Constructive Awareness by Daniel McGowan, features Paul Brunton’s philosophy (key concepts include reincarnation, the ‘Overself’ and mentalism).[32]
  • Going Mental by Daniel McGowan; on the mentalism of Paul Brunton (or ‘Oriental Mentalism’ to distinguish it from subjective idealism of the western tradition).[33]
  • Let Your Life Flow – The physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of the Alexander Technique by Alex Maunder, a mostly ‘new age’ interpretation of the Technique.[34]
  • ‘The Alexander Technique and the Principles of Self-Transformation’ by Alex Maunder (booklet).[35]

See also Philosophy.

References

[1] Man's Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 3.
[2] The Universal Constant in Living by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 2000), p. xxix.
[3] The Universal Constant in Living by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 2000), endnote 16, p. 240–42.
[4] Personally Speaking by Walter Carrington and Sean Carey, (Mouritz, 2001), pp. 72–74.
[5] Explaining the Alexander Technique by Walter Carrington and Sean Carey, (Mouritz, 2004), pp. 71–74.
[6] The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Chaterson, 1946), p. 31.
[7] The Expanding Self by Goddard Binkley (STATBooks, 1993), pp. 43, 88, endnote 48, p. 157.
[8] The Expanding Self by Goddard Binkley (STATBooks, 1993), p. 88, endnote 65, p. 161.
[9] ‘The Alexander principle and some spiritual disciplines’ by Fr Geoffrey Curtis in More Talk of Alexander edited by Dr Wilfred Barlow (Mouritz, 2005 [1978]), pp. 157–61.
[10] ‘Ordering’ by Dr Wilfred Barlow and Fr Geoffrey Curtis in More Talk of Alexander edited by Dr Wilfred Barlow (Mouritz, 2005 [1978]), pp. 175–81.
[11] F. Matthias Alexander and the Creative Advance of the Individual by George C. Bowden (L. N. Fowler & Co, 1965).
[12] The Alexander Technique As I See It by Patrick Macdonald (Mouritz, 2015), pp. 74–75.
[13] ‘Similarities between Krishnamurti's teachings and the F. M. Alexander Technique’ by Jean M. O. Fischer (author, 1989), booklet.
[14] ‘The Alexander Technique and the Principles of Self-Transformation’ by Alex Maunder (author, 1993), booklet.
[15] ‘The spiritual dimensions of the Alexander Technique’ by Patty de Llosa in AmSAT News issue no. 74 (Summer 2007), pp. 21–23.
[16] ‘The Technique as personal cultivation: a Japanese perspective’ by Fumie Hosoi in Connected Perspectives edited by Claire Rennie, Tanya Shoop, Kamal Thapen (HITE, 2015), pp. 107–21.
[17] ‘The Embodied Liturgist: Contributions of the Alexander Technique and the Primal Patterns Theory to the Development of a Holistic, Embodied Pedagogy for Liturgical Presiding’ by Sandra Dager.
[18] ‘Direction meets Kavvanah – How the Alexander Technique can deepen the experience of Jewish prayer’ by Kate Judd in AmSAT Journal issue no. 13, Spring 2018, pp. 44–48.
[19] ‘Using the Alexander Technique in liturgy and teaching’ by Father Alcuin Scharchenmayr in Paths to the Alexander Technique edited by Shelagh Aitken (HITE, 2015), pp. 52–54.
[20] ‘The primary matter in buddhism and the Alexander Technique’ by Mike Cross in The Alexander Journal no. 18 edited by Francsca Greenoak (STAT, 2002), pp. 12–14.
[21] ‘Spirituality Part One’ by Claude AnShin Thomas in The Congress Papers 1999, An Ongoing Discovery edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (STATBooks, 2001), pp. 51–58.
[22] ‘Spirituality Part Two’ by Purna Steinitz in The Congress Papers 1999, An Ongoing Discovery edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (STATBooks, 2001), pp. 58–64.
[23] ‘Spirituality and the Alexander Technique’ by Andreas Kreymeier in The Congress Papers 2011, Learning from Each Other edited by Siriol Jones, (STAT Books, 2012), pp. 263–67.
[24] ‘Tapping into the well of Chi’ by Alexander Farkas in The Congress Papers 2015, Empowering Humanity, Inspiring Science edited by Rachel Gering-Hasthorpe (STAT Books, 2016), pp. 121–22.
[25] ‘Stepping off a 100 feet pole’ by Daigaku Rummé in Direction vol. 2, no. 6 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 1998), pp. 6–10.
[26] ‘Every moment Alexander’ by R. D. Walshe in Direction vol. 2, no. 6 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 1998), pp. 11–14.
[27] ‘The secular technique’ by Mark Wester in Direction vol. 2, no. 6 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 1998), pp. 18.
[28] ‘The place we never leave’ by Betsy Polatin in Direction vol. 2, no. 6 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 1998), pp. 19–21.
[29] ‘A spiritual path’ by Wade Alexander in Direction vol. 2, no. 9 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 2000), pp. 11–14.
[30] ‘The path is always present’ by Debra Cash in Direction vol. 2, no. 9 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 2000), pp. 19–20.
[31] ‘Synchronising body and mind’ by Hope Martin in Direction vol. 2, no. 9 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 2000), pp. 21–25.
[32] Constructive Awareness – Alexander Technique and the Spiritual Quest by Daniel McGowan (Larson Publications, 1997).
[33] Going Mental by Daniel McGowan (author, 2000).
[34] Let Your Life Flow – The physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of the Alexander Technique by Alex Maunder (C. W. Daniel, 2002).
[35] ‘The Alexander Technique and the Principles of Self-Transformation’ by Alex Maunder (author, 1993), booklet.