A letter to Wade Alexander concerning spirituality and the Alexander Technique

I read Wade Alexander’s article with some interest since I was one of the original contributors to the Mark Arnold inspired debate he mentions in STATNews concerning mind/body unity.

I emphasised at that time what I considered the inseparability of mind and body; but although I haven’t changed my views, I don’t think I would use the same terms now.

Whether this world is a dream or not it is the world we live in and it was the world Alexander addressed. In it, body and brain are so obviously part and parcel of the same thing there is universal agreement they constitute a unity. There can be absolutely no distinction between them: when one dies, so does the other.

Confusion lies in the words we use to describe what animates us. For many, the possibility exists that something immaterial, variously called mind or soul, inhabits and drives the body, leaving it when it dies. Science dismisses this, denying all idea of a soul, but talks about the mind, while clearly meaning an adjunct of the brain.

I see no discrepancy between either belief and psycho-physical unity in our known world. What Alexander taught was simply that the activity of the brain could not happen independently of the activity of the remainder of the body.

As to what underlay this activity, he hardly speculated, barely commenting in his books on the make-up of the consciousness whose control he sought, still less the possibility of it becoming liberated after death. He spoke of the mind as if it was synonymous with the brain, and rarely mentioned the soul.

Alexander’s view, limited to what was directly observable, may have failed to consider what if any part of us survives death (and, some would say, precedes birth); but since it doesn’t specifically exclude the possibility, I wouldn’t accept that his Technique is "antithetical" to dualism, so much as indifferent to its claims.

Of course, how any aspect of us might exist independently of our bodies is still as much a mystery as how it could presently be accomodated by them. Evidently, Wade Alexander thinks the answer lies in the teachings of ACIM; but I’m not so sure.

I believe the truth is knowable, on an approachable level, and that it needn’t involve God, or Jesus. If science is correct, and there is neither soul nor separate mind, consciousness is a brain activity and ‘we’ die with our bodies. If, on the other hand, we are immortal, immaterial beings, whose consciousness pervades our frames much as water does a sponge, although this may depart readily enough when the time is right, until then it remains an inseperable part of an undeniable psycho-physical whole.


Nicholas Brockbank.

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