Walter Carrington on the Regulation of Alexander Technique Teacher Training Courses

(Walter Carrington's Speech on June 16th, 2005 to representatives of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT) concerning STAT Council's attempt to define the content of Alexander Technique teacher training courses)

With regard to this Society, I have known it since not only its first inception but from when it was discussed and planned in the 1930’s. I have seen the Society grow and develop from that time, and now I am in the situation where I don’t expect or wish to take an active part in the Society in the future. The question of where we go from here is up to you all. I can bow out – that is my personal position – but it is only reasonable that I should tell you my thoughts.

When the Society first got going, Dilys and I were not in it for the first two years. Then the Barlows said to us one night, ‘You ought to join. We need a society, and you’ve got a training course and we think you should join.’

The Society at that time comprised all the senior teachers who had trained with Alexander. Since his death, we had been working at our own practices and all of us were highly critical of each other’s work. None of us was free from criticism. Each had their own point of view about teaching and the underlying principles of the work. But we got together and knew we had to respect each other’s point of view, and the Society regulated itself to that end. And I use the word ‘regulation’ because when societies come together, they have to have rules; but we did not have rules that suggested how people should teach, and still less was it ever conceived that the Society would tell Heads of Training how they would conduct their training courses. We had all been trained by Alexander, and it was presumed that we were going to teach in accordance with our own understanding, and that we were going to run our training courses in the same way.

The Society worked very well – there were no terrible rows or blood on the carpet. In fact it was a positive advantage that a lot of people, who didn’t previously get together naturally, did come together at committee meetings like this. And we got to know each other better, and the Society grew to be the one it is today – which has a lot to commend it.

My personal attitude, regarding the matter of regulation, is that I do not think it is the business of the Society to attempt to tell anybody how this Technique ought to be taught or how Heads of Training should run training courses. Those are matters for the individuals concerned. Particularly, I adhere to this view for 2 reasons:

The first is that if you look at the big edition of The Universal Constant in Living, (UCL) F. M. wrote a section entitled ‘Introductory’. He explains there why he came to write UCL, having already written his three previous books. In those few pages, which I commend to you, he explains what I think is so important and – as he says in those pages – is very frequently misunderstood and ignored: the real significance of our experience of mind-body unity. Mind-body unity is something you can talk about these days and few people will deny it; but probe further and you will find that in practice, people separate the two. All the health professionals, gymnasts, etc, separate it. In fact everyone separates it, except us. We don’t, because we have a practical technique which is based on unity – a living demonstration of mind-body unity. When we are teaching our pupils, it isn’t the body side or the mental side that we are concerned with. We are concerned with the whole individual and we are successful in that way. And it is our understanding – and more than that, the practical technique that Alexander devised – that enables us to put into practice the mind-body unity, in a way which nobody else really does.

The second thing is that Alexander himself took the philosophical stance – which again, I think, is very popular and theoretically accepted these days – that we need to concern ourselves with what is wrong, rather than what is right. Alexander always said that it was no use dreaming up wonderful ideas about rightness whilst we were persisting in wrongness; that you had got to stop the wrong first, and that if you could stop people doing the wrong, you did not have to worry: the right thing would take care of itself.

In this day and age, people don’t give attention to stopping the wrong. They are far too intent on advocating what they see to be the right. And I think that these two things – the unity of mind and body, and the attitude towards right and wrong – are the two main features that distinguish our work from everything else. It is no good seeing our work as like that of anyone else, because it is not.

If we are true to our own principles, if we really live the Technique – which after all is what we need to do, what we are supposed to do – then there won’t be very much room for presenting our work as though it was like anything else. To present it as a form of therapy, to present it as a form of callisthenics, or to present it as anything other than it is – a psycho-physical process – is to misrepresent and mislead.

That is why I personally, from the beginning, have been very strongly against "competencies" and various other things that have emerged in the last year or two; and I could not envisage acquiescing in the adoption of those things by a society that I belong to.

I look for change and I hope for change. I recognise that the decision is yours. But as far as I am concerned, I take leave to be excused and you must allow me quietly to depart. But when I do depart, I will certainly supply to anybody who is interested an explanation of why I do so. Thank you.