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Professor Bryan Niblett

Tuesday 7th October, 6:30-8:30pm, Friends Meeting House

report by John Hunter

On a personal note I am very grateful to Professor Niblett for agreeing to come and give a talk to the AT Friends; firstly because I feel it is very important for the development of the Friends of the Alexander Technique that the voices of a wide range of people are heard -teachers, pupils, researchers, etc.; and secondly because I was very interested to hear what he would say about his lessons with Margaret Goldie, someone who stayed in the background during the surge of interest in the Technique during the 1970's and 80's, but who represented for many of those people who found their way to her, a kind of "Universal Constant" of the essence of Alexander's discoveries.

Bryan Niblett's talk, focussing in particular on his lessons with Margaret Goldie over a seven year period, was a delightful and informative event. For those who never knew Miss Goldie there was an opportunity to get a glimpse into her very particular understanding of Alexander's discoveries, and for those who were her pupils it was a reminder of just how fortunate we were.

 

Here are some of my impressions of the evening, though in a brief report one cannot really do justice to all that was given.

 

Bryan began his talk by commenting on some correspondence between Alexander and Dewey on the subject of Dewey's introduction to Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual. Dewey felt the title was too long and suggested to FM that he simply entitle the book Constructive Conscious Control, but Alexander replied that that would be to leave out the most important word: individual. This was to be the theme of Bryan's talk: Alexander's work is a technique for the individual.

 

After more than ten years of lessons, most notably with Walter Carrington and Dick Walker, Bryan contacted Margaret Goldie and was immediately struck by the clarity and resonance of her voice on the telephone. She agreed to see him and let him know whether or not she would accept him as a pupil. Then, for the next seven years, he would see her once a month.

 

We were treated to some "Goldie stories" (which, for those who are familiar with the genre, have a very particular quality). On one occasion Bryan asked Miss Goldie whether or not it was true that FM would sometimes -at the end of someone's lesson -place a bet on a horse. Miss G came and looked him in the eyes and said, "Mr Niblett! I want you to understand that Mr Alexander was not the sort of man to wait until the end of a lesson to place a bet."

 

Bryan asked her a lot of questions, but on one occasion, after yet another question, Miss G said to him, "Mr Niblett, don't ask so many questions because it only demonstrates that you are not ready to understand any answers I might give."

 

The themes around which Miss G's teaching focussed were primarily the importance of stopping and of making discoveries; entering the unfamiliar. In her manner she was very detached and yet sometimes, in a wordless moment and without any loss of formality, there could be a real intimacy.

 

Bryan developed in a vey interesting way some of the themes that arose. Just to give readers a taste, here are some jottings I made:

  • mind/body unity is self evident: they are one, though communication may not be good

  • the word psycho-physical separates; "individual" includes both aspects (from Latin root meaning "undivided")

  • quotes Aristotle: "We must no more ask whether the soul and body are one than ask whether the wax and the figure impressed on it are one."
    in cybernetics the element of the system with the greatest freedom must be the controlling one.

  • in the cognitive pause of real stopping, discoveries can be made

  • John Locke wrote about "the mind having ........ a power to suspend the execution and satisfaction of any of its desires".

  • What Alexander is describing in the Use of the Self is free will, the source of liberty; and Miss Goldie understood this.

In response to a question asking what was the most important thing he had learned, Bryan responded that it was to do with end-gaining; "When we are end-gaining we usually do gain ends, but we stop making discoveries."

 

John Hunter, February 2009

 

 

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