A philosophy professor at Hampshire College studied with me each year for several years. That was 35 years ago. Annually, I was invited to Hamphire College to teach the Alexander Technique for the Five College Dance Department. One day after class, she came up to me and declared with utter certainty that my work was firmly rooted in the American tradition of Transcendentalism and, therefore, that clearly made me a Transcendentalist. Given the background of one of my main mentors, this made sense. I had not put it together.
Here is a concise summary of Transcendentalism I found by a contemporary philosopher, Chris Lucas:
One of the more recent transcendentalist movements was that associated with Emerson and Thoreau in the mid 19th Century. It supported educational innovation and reform of society, within an individual worldview that was committed to intuition as a way of knowing, and a proffered belief in the divinity of both man and nature. Despite a generally non-scientific approach, it went along with the earlier transcendental idealism of Kant, in which all knowledge relates to the interplay of senses, reason and intuition, and cannot be derived by any one in isolation.
Here is my direct link to Emerson. I think of it as one of my Life Lines.
Dewey studied with Emerson and Alexander.
My book should smell of pines and resound with the hum of insects. The swallow over my window should interweave that thread or straw he carries in his bill into my web also.
When and investigation comes to be made, it will be found that every single thing we are doing in the work is exactly what is being done in nature where the conditions are right, the difference being that we are learning to do it consciously.
F.M. Alexander (1869-1956)
It, (Alexander’s work), bears the same relation to education as education bears to all other human activities.
John Dewey (1859-1952)
Richard M. Gummere Jr. (Buzz) studied with Dewey and Alexander and loved Emerson’s work.
Now when you enter some Alexander studios what do you see? You see a skeleton. Occasionally you will see in the studio of an Alexander teacher a wall chart of the human musculature. You think you’re in a butcher shop. What you rarely see is a wall chart of the central nervous system. The beautiful filigree of the human nervous system as it spreads and fans out. It’s got its little dendrites and axons fluttering everywhere, like bees coming out in the spring.
Buzz Gummere (1912-2007) and Bruce Fertman (1951- )
Buzz served as the Dean of Bard College and later as a Career Counselor at Columbia University and, I am proud to say, as the Philosophic Advisor in Residence for the Alexander Alliance. Buzz and I studied with one another for 25 years both resonating as educators with many of Emerson’s, Dewey’s, and Alexander’s ideas. Buzz, late in his life, gave me his first edition copy of Dewey’s, Intelligence in the Modern World.
Though I may be a Transcendentalist, honestly, my wish is not to transcend reality but to enter ever more deeply into experiencing reality, as it is. Paul Eluard wrote, “There is another world, but it is in this one.” In this one, not beyond this one. Grace of Sense is full of practices that grant us entry into the world within this world, a natural world, a friendly world.
Consider joining me for Grace of Sense Begins. Go to www.graceofsense.com to find out more and to register.
Begins soon. October 21st. Write to me if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org