Part I: Sensory Appreciation In Its Relation To Man’s Evolutionary Development

Inadequacy of Subconscious Guidance and Control to Meet the Rapid Changes of Civilized Life

Study Questions

1. Why can’t humans progress satisfactorily while they remain dependent upon subconscious (instinctive) guidance and control?

2. What is Alexander’s definition of instinct?

3. In what way have rapid changes in the environment proved harmful to us?

4. Where did the “observant minority” go wrong in their analysis of the problem of our deterioration?

5. How does Alexander define psycho-physical activity and psycho- physical mechanism?

6. How does he use the terms “mental” and “physical?”

Thought Question

1. Do you feel that there are times (either in history or currently) when there is a preponderance of activity on the “physical” side or a preponderance of activity on the “mental” side? By what criteria do we judge an activity as being preponderantly “physical” vs. preponderantly “mental?” Do we use our “mind” any less when engaged in a “physical” activity (e.g. playing tennis) than we use our “body” when engaged in a “mental” one (e.g. reading)? Or are we simply less aware of the use of whichever “part” seems less predominant? Is it only that we can clearly be aware of and therefore label as “mental” activities that are verbal, i.e. are mediated in some way by language?

Comparison of Evolutionary Processes in the Savage and Civilized States

Study Questions

7. How does Alexander use the term evolution in this book?

8. How does each stage of evolutionary development come about?

9. What is required on a subconscious plane to establish instinctive accuracy?

10. What insured the adequate and correct use of the psycho-physical mechanism as a whole?

11. What was the creature’s most trying problem in meeting the demands of the civilized state?

12. Why did response to stimuli have to be much quicker in the civilized state?

13. In what direction did demands on psycho-physical processes change?

14. What was essential for human beings to acquire to satisfactorily meet the new demands of civilization?

15. Why must human creatures, at some period of their evolutionary progress, have reached a psychological moment when they passed from the subconscious to the conscious plane of control?

16. Of what would this change of plane involve a knowledge?

17. How does Alexander know that the process of reasoning out the means-whereby” was not adequately established in the human creature at the psychological moment of moving from a savage to a civilized state?

18. Upon what does the “end-gaining” principle depend? The “means-whereby” principle?

19. What is the psycho-physical activity that establishes the conditions essential to the increasing development of potentialities?

Thought Questions

2. What are the “slowly operating forces” that creatures have at their command?

3. In a footnote on p. 4, Alexander defines instinct, and in Appendix B in Man’s Supreme Inheritance, instinct and intuition. If instinct is the result of subconscious psycho-physical experiences, and intuition the result of conscious, reasoned experiences, and if when we reach the plane of conscious control we will have established new and correct habits and thus a new and correct subconsciousness, will there be any room left for intuition? Is intuition the equivalent of instinct on the plane of conscious control? Or will we use the process of intuition to reach that plane, but once there will our intuition be “instinctive?”

4. In what way did securing daily food and meeting the great “physical” demands of the savage mode of life insure a high standard of coordination of the mechanism of the psycho-physical organism? Why would not a high level of physical activity in the normal course of one’s daily life (i.e. manual labor, physical exercise or athletics) not guarantee a high standard of co-ordination?

Complexity and Complications of Civilized Life

Study Questions

20. What assumptions are most people prepared to accept as a consequence of civilized life?

21. What do these people fail to realize?

22. Where and in what way does the fault lie in accounting for the difficulties of civilized life?

23. What might we expect if the attempts to solve life’s difficulties continue along the paths presently used?

24. Upon what does the standard of psycho-physical activity depend?

25. In what way does Alexander use the word co-ordination?

26. What distinction does Alexander draw between complicated and complex?

27. What happens in a poorly co-ordinated pupil when learning to do a new activity?

28. Why will the result as a whole in learning a new activity not be satisfactory?

29. What does the teacher do in an attempt to overcome the impeding factors present in learning the new activity?

30. What does co-ordinated use of the organism mean?

31. What would the human creature enjoy in a reasoned plan of life?

Recognition and Satisfaction of Essential Needs in Relation to Evolutionary Progress

32. What does satisfactory evolutionary progress demand?

33. What connotes a satisfactory standard of the co-ordinated use of the organism?

34. What is all advancement associated with?

35. What prevents a person from conceiving of or seeing or accepting anything outside their present experiences?

36. What does Alexander mean by the term “experiences?”

37. What is the “danger zone of psycho-physical shortcomings” and how does it come to be established?

Thought Question

4. How does the stimulus of a need lead to “the development of those psycho-physical potentialities which enable the creature to meet satisfactorily the demands of the processes essential to the satisfaction of the need” (p. 17)? Is this idea similar to the concept of how natural selection functions in Man’s Supreme Inheritance, and later in this work, where Alexander talks about the development of the human eye or hand? Do you or do you not agree with Alexander that in the beginning of things all growth and development must surely have resulted from a form of consciousness of need? Is there a difference between evolution of structure–e.g. eyes–and the evolution of consciousness? Does consciousness have a structure (physical or otherwise) and if so what is it?

Mind-Wandering Recognized as a Shortcoming–Its Relation to Self- Preservation

Study Questions

38. What does the recognition of a need denote? What does the primary activity which is the response to this need involve?

39. What does the primary activity which is the response to the consciousness of a need involve?

40. Upon what does the process of evolution depend?

41. How are habits (instincts) established?

42. What was the most fundamental need of any creature?

43. What did this need call for?

44. What is the lack underlying both “mind-wandering” and a seriously weakened response to an act of self-preservation?

45. To what is an act of self-preservation a response? To what is an attempt to learn something or learn to do something a response?

46. Upon what does a satisfactory response in both spheres (self- preservation and learning) depend?

47. When people succeed in an attempt to learn or learn to do something, why would they not be conscious of any shortcoming such as “mind-wandering?”

48. What does it mean when people fail in their attempts?

49. Why is the term “mind-wandering” not adequate for the process Alexander describes?

50. With what is the manifestation of an imperfectly co-ordinated condition associated?

51. Upon what did the savage creature chiefly depend?

52. Upon what does the civilized creature chiefly depend? What is the difference between the two?

53. How has the general weakening in the psycho-physical directing and controlling forces of human creatures come about?

54. Why do people attribute to causes outside themselves responsibility for unsatisfactory experiences?

55. Why is it highly probable that people who suffer from “mind- wandering” have never given consideration to the “means-whereby” required to accomplish their task?

56. Why do these people then become convinced that the cause of their failure is their inability to “keep their mind on” what they are doing?

57. What two types of concentration does Alexander describe, and what fault does he find with the latter type?

Thought Questions

5. Alexander states (p. 21) that “the civilized creature does not manifest anything like the same standard of accuracy in the employment of the organism…[manifested by the wild animal or the savage]…in the spheres of activity concerned with self-preservation.” One can fairly easily imagine self-preservation in the case of the savage, but what does self-preservation entail for us? As our existence is presumably neither nasty nor brutish nor short, how has the challenge of self-preservation changed? Suppose a “modern” child were given to the savage to raise–would the modern child develop proper guidance and control because of being faced with a primitive environment? Or has our evolutionary development sufficiently changed over the millennia so that even supposing such conditions existed, a modern child could not adapt to them?

6. Is it possible that that task a person is trying to accomplish may in part be responsible for mind-wandering? Could mind-wandering be a necessary part of learning, as when, for example, enough information has been presented and it needs to be “assimilated,” or a problem seems unsolvable, but when attention is no longer focussed on it (i.e. the mind wanders) the solution is suddenly obvious?

Consideration of the Mechanism of the Human Psycho-Physical Organism in Relation to the Activities called Learning and Learning To Do

Study Questions

58. What is the important problem to be solved in the sphere of learning or learning to do?

59. Why is it important to give consideration to the matter of conception?

60. Upon what does the standard of functioning depend in what would ordinarily be considered a purely physical sphere?

61. Upon what does the standard of functioning depend in what would ordinarily be considered a purely mental sphere?

62. What must happen if the highest standard of “physical functioning” is to be reached?

63. What must happen if the highest standard of “mental functioning” is to be reached?

64. What ultimately determines the standard of individual functioning?

65. In what way is the process of conception determined by our psycho- physical condition at the time when a stimulus is received?

Thought Questions

7. Does the standard of our psycho-physical functioning determine our mood or frame of mind, or does our mood determine the standard of our psycho-physical functioning?

8. Although Alexander reminds us that he does not separate “mental” and “physical” he gives us very different descriptions of what the standard of functioning depends on for the two spheres (p. 30) and talks about “the vital functioning of the organism” (p. 31) in a way that clearly shows the “mental” processes depend on the “physical” for the adequacy of their functioning. Why should not a “physical” act depend, in the first instance, on what he lists as #1 for the “mental” spheres?

Influence of Sensory Appreciation Upon Conception in All Psycho- Physical Activity

Study Questions

66. By what are we chiefly influenced in our conception of how to employ the different parts of our mechanism? Why?

67. What does Alexander mean by sensory appreciation?

Sensory Appreciation

68. What is the reason that defects can be present in children at a very early age?

69. What are Alexander’s purposes in this book?

70. What does sensory appreciation include, taken in the most limited sense?

Thought Question

9. Alexander states (p. 34) that “we are guided chiefly by our sensory appreciation; or as most people would put it, by our sense of feeling.” In what way can we be guided by our sense of feeling? If we are guided “chiefly” by our sensory appreciation, by what else are we or could we be guided?

The Human and the Inanimate Machine Compared and Contrasted

Study Questions

71. Upon what is the reliability of the human and inanimate machine dependent?

72. What is the all important difference between the two?

73. How do the controlling mechanisms of the two differ?

74. What is necessary if we are to continue to develop satisfactorily?

Unreliable Sensory Appreciation a Universal Defect

75. What are some examples Alexander gives of people’s unreliable
sensory appreciation? What do these examples serve to show? Upon what presumption have we acted regarding sensory appreciation?

Consideration of Three Stages of Man’s Development in Relation to Deterioration of Sensory Appreciation

76. What are the three stages of human development?

Stage I, Uncivilized Stage: Standard of Sensory Appreciation Reliable and Satisfactory Conditions Maintained

Study Questions

77. How was the satisfactory condition of the savage creature maintained in stage one?

78. Why did unawareness of the means whereby employed in daily activities not matter at this stage?

79. By what reasoning does Alexander justify his assumption that the
savage creature had a well developed and healthy organism?

80. What is the significance of the fact that in stage one change occurred but slowly vis-a-vis the daily activities that people performed?

81. Through what means would the savage know what specific remedy to use in case of illness or injury?

82. Why in an unchanging environment would people have no need of recourse to the higher directive processes?

Thought Question

10. Alexander writes (p. 42) that when ill or injured the savage “would apply as a remedy some specific herb or root which he would know to possess the curative qualities he needed,” later stating that instinct would guide him to the necessary specific remedy. What might be the mechanism by which instinct operated to show the savage the correct herb or root? Why should a savage know out of the possibly hundreds of plants from which they might choose, the best one to use? By “instinctive” does Alexander mean that no reasoning occurred during a process of choosing one plant over another? Would a creature living on the plane of conscious control make a decision regarding which plant to use by another process?

Stage II, Early Civilizing Stage: Development of Reasoning Inhibition
and the Beginning of the End of the Dominance of Instinct as a Controlling Factor

Study Questions

83. In what way do we know that reasoning came more and more to illumine the human creature’s dull and limited existence?

84. What did we begin to put into practice with every advance and
every change made in our environment, and what did this change enable us to do?

85. What did the development and use of this reasoning process mark?

86. What forced us to develop our reasoning processes?

87. What was one of the greatest difficulties confronting us in our evolutionary progress?

88. How did we adapt, and what did we subconsciously presume?

89. How is it evident that we did not apply the reasoning processes used in inventing crude weapons, etc. to the direction of our psycho- physical mechanisms?

90. Why is it most unlikely that we would have received even a slight subconscious hint that our instinct would be in any way affected in the new surroundings?

91. What would we have realized had we reasoned the matter out?

92. To what did we confine the use of our reasoning processes and to what did we fail to apply them?

93. Why were our physical mechanisms being gradually but surely interfered with?

94. What is the tragedy of civilization?

95. What is our supreme civilizing blunder?

Stage III, Later Civilizing Stage: Recognition of a Serious Shortcoming
Which was Called Physical Deterioration

96. What is the proof that the people who recognized a serious shortcoming in themselves and others considered it a physical one?

97. What would have had to have happened for this sense of shortcoming and general lack of well-being not to have accompanied humankind from that day to this?

98. What was the cost of the process of civilization widening the scope for mental activities?

99. What did the unbalanced development of human growth mark?

Interference with the Co-ordinated Use of the Psycho-Physical Mechanism and an Associated Lowering of the Standard of Sensory Appreciation

100. Why was it inevitable that continuing to place implicit reliance on instinctive guidance would result in an interference with the co-ordinated use of our psycho-physical mechanism?

101. In what way was the harm of continuing to rely on instinctive guidance intensified?

102. How was this problem of the deterioration of the human creature complicated?

103. What leads in time to the cultivation of the fixed habit or phobia?

104. Why, when this problem was recognized, did people opt for specific solutions?

105. What flaw of logic was committed when people decided that their lack of health was due to a deterioration in their muscular development?

106. On what basis must the value of any knowledge or principle be judged?

Specific Remedy Chosen to Counteract a General Malcondition

107. What were the solutions offered to the problem of a deteriorating “physical” condition, and with what results?

Certain Errors of Judgment in Man’s Choice of “Physical Exercises”
as a Remedy for a Fundamental Shortcoming

Study Questions

108. What factors were overlooked in the long search for the remedy for our deterioration?

109. Why were these factors overlooked?

110. What would have been the result of thinking of the body as a very intricately constructed machine?

Thought Question

11. Alexander talks about the savage possessing “a mechanical organism which worked with mechanical accuracy…” (p. 42), and earlier compares the human to an inanimate machine. What limitations does the “human is a machine” metaphor have? Do you think that if people had thought of themselves as machines, they would have realized that their deteriorated condition “must surely be the symptom of some failure in the working of the machinery, and that the whole machine would need to
be readjusted before it could work co-ordinately once more” (p. 63), or is it more likely they would have thought a “part” needed fixing and gone to a doctor, exercise coach or therapist to be put right? How does the use of this metaphor effect how we understand, and apply Alexander’s Technique?

Man’s Conscious Reasoning Processes Applied in Connexion with Outside Activities
but Not in Connexion with His Psycho-Physical Organism

Study Questions

111. What is the one great principle on which Alexander claims our satisfactory progress in civilization depends?

112. What do we tend to do in our attempts to progress on a subconscious plane?

Harmful Concept of the Division of the Psycho-Physical Organism

Study Questions

113. What epitomizes all the errors which human beings have made in their attempts to solve the problem of living in civilization while relying upon subconscious guidance?

114. According to Alexander, what is the probable origin for the separation of a person into mind, body and soul?

115. What was responsible for fear being people’s constant companion from very earliest times?

116. What was the origin of primitive religious rites?

117. How does unsatisfactory equilibrium come about, and with what is it associated?

118. What new fear developed in later eras (after we evolved into the civilized state), and what was its cause?

119. What solution was proposed to resolve the urgent problem of fear of self?

120. What does the conception of a separation and class distinction between “body,” “mind” and “soul” indicate?

121. In what way did the principle of class distinction within the organism grow and develop in the process called education?

Thought Questions

12. In the footnote on pp. 69-70, Alexander derides attempts to understand the “mind” and “soul” in large part because according to him there is no tangible way to “know” the mind let alone the soul. If we are one indivisible unity, and function as such, and if in our racial development we emerged from a non-reasoning “animal” to a reasoning (albeit far from the plane of conscious control) “animal,” how did the concept of a “mind” (not to mention a soul) that is separate from a “body” ever arise in the first place? A simple parallelism with forces larger than ourselves (e.g. thunder and lightening)? True divine inspiration? Certainly what we call “Western Civilization” has had a strong tradition of seeing the “mind” and “body” as two separate parts. Is this separation a cultural artifact? Are there other cultures which do not (or did not) make this kind of separation? Does “analytical scientific reasoning” (which we like to think of as a Western contribution to civilization) depend on separating parts from wholes, or is there a way of thinking which can be “scientific” and “whole” at the same time? 13. Alexander writes (p. 70, ftn) that “of the working of what we call “mind” we have no tangible knowledge.” Is this statement still true today? If no longer true, does the knowledge we have aid us in our understanding and development of the Technique? Alexander used his own mind to reason out a technique which went far beyond his original goals when he first began his investigations. Did he then have “no tangible knowledge” of the working of his mind? What form does knowledge have to take to be “tangible?” If I “know” the multiplication tables, is this knowledge tangible? Is knowledge ever tangible, or does in only become so when “used?” How do I know that I know something?

Need for Unity and Simplicity

Study Questions

122. What does Alexander propose must happen before we can unravel the horribly tangled skein of our present existence?

123. What will we find if we honestly examine what we believe?

Need for Substituting in all Spheres the Principle of Prevention on a General Basis for Methods of “Cure” on a Specific Basis

124. Where can we find the best illustration of erroneous conceptions?

125. What will a review of our behavior show two centuries from now, and what will such a review provide?

126. With what view of life does seeking and adopting a cure go along? Why?

127. What does the adoption of the principle of “cure” mean vis-a-vis
the foundation of our cherished ideals?
128. How does a scheme of life in which prevention is the leading principle differ from a scheme of life as in the previous question?

129. What are the three illustrations Alexander uses as examples of the lack of reasoning associated with all methods of cure?

130. What knowledge is necessary for the co-ordinated use of the human mechanism, and what does this knowledge imply?

131. What is the first thing to acquire immediately we decide to do something to remove a psycho-physical imperfection or defect?

132. How may surgeons pass from the narrow sphere of curative work to the greater achievements in the field of prevention?

133. By what is all so-called mental activity governed?

134. What element is common to the thinking of the people in the three illustrations?

Fundamental Defect in Our Plan of Civilization a Lack of Recognition of the Importance of the Principle of Prevention on a General Basis

Study Questions

135. What makes possible our advancement to higher and higher stages of evolution and opens up the greatest possibilities for human activities and accomplishment?

136. Where should the principle of prevention be best applied and why has it not yet been widely applied in that sphere?

137. What does Alexander do instead of “curing” people?

138. What evidence does Alexander give for abandoning the “cure” method?

139. With whom must we treat to begin the process of directing people into the path of constructive guidance and control?

140. What is the fundamental shortcoming underlying all human psycho- physical defects, imperfections and peculiarities?

Thought Questions

14. Alexander repeatedly and with great emphasis makes the point that any “cure” which does not work on the principle of prevention and treat the person as a psycho-physical whole is not a cure at all. Indeed one could easily infer that if we were all operating on the plane of conscious control, the need for “cures” would never arise, and doctors would not be needed. Do you believe Alexander would agree with that inference? Is there a place for a “preventive” type of doctoring to help keep us functioning at our psycho-physical best (from a doctor of course who had extensive knowledge of Alexander’s principles) and what would this doctor’s area of practice be?

15. Can miracles exist in Alexander’s cosmology? Would there be a need for them?

16. Alexander writes (p. 99) about exercises being a positive danger until one’s sensory appreciation “becomes again a more or less reliable guide.” Given how emphatic he is in this work about the importance of a reliable sensory appreciation, why do you think he wrote “a more or less reliable guide” instead of “completely reliable guide” or even just “reliable guide?” Is there a difference between our sensory appreciation being accurate and being reliable, i.e., our being able to rely on it as a guide for movement? How can the sensation of a movement just made guide us to make the movement itself before we make it? If sensory appreciation cannot guide a movement before the movement has occurred, then what is its proper role?

17. Alexander writes (p. 97) that we seem to be simply preparing the way for our own extinction unless “those energies, which in the past have been directed into harmful channels in the outside world, are in future directed and controlled by reasoning processes which have been primarily employed in connexion with the use of…[our]…psycho- physical organism.” Do you agree with Alexander, that our only hope is to direct and control our energies by reasoning processes “which have been primarily employed in connexion with the use of…[our]… psycho-physical organism?” If so, by what means can his principles reach the masses so that “when thrown together [they] will no longer exhibit the inflammable traits associated with the horde instinct” (p. 97). Alexander believed it was through “treatment of the individual human creature on the basis of constructive conscious control…” that the masses would be reached. Do individuals need “hands on guidance” to understand his principles, or are they valid in their own right and capable of standing on their own?