The Vault

Act. Don't React.

By Sir George Trevelyan


Well, dear friends... it sounds trite to say that it's a great pleasure to meet this company, but I mean it. Here I am, what you might call a renegade Alexander teacher, who qualified under Alexander himself in his first training course, taught for two years and then, as far as the movement was concerned, vanished. And for fifty years, I followed other activities. But what I want to say is based on the depth of feeling that what Alexander discovered and taught, is of the very profoundest importance for our time and is becoming a vital factor in—dare I say it—the redemption of mankind.

From the very outset I was fired with an immense excitement about this discovery. I was at Cambridge at the time, and a friend told me about Alexander and I went and saw him. At that time I fenced very well, even fenced for Cambridge. I climbed mountains with the Cambridge Mountaineering Club and at night we climbed roofs, which was an exciting thing to do over the Cambridge colleges!

I met with FM and he looked at me, ran his hands over me and he said:

"Good Lord, young man, what have you been doing to yourself?"

Well, I didn't know what he meant. He made me go through some of the motions of the fencing and then showed me what I was doing—that in that movement of the lunge back came the head and in came the back, again and again. I had established a habit of use which was pulling the body to pieces. It was rather a shock and the first lesson was a revelation of wonder and a tremendous flash of vision that this man had found the great truth and the possibility of really establishing the true co-ordination of the human body.

That was back in 1926-27. In 1929 FM decided that in two years time he could start a training course; there existed a small group which he could count on his fingers; Erika Whittaker and Marjorie Barstow, Irene Tasker and Lulie Westfeldt, Gurney MacInnes and myself, with Pat Macdonald to join us shortly: that was enough to start the first training course.

That gave me time to follow up another enthusiasm—to become a craftsman in woodwork and furniture -making. I very soon found that the fountain-head of that great craft tradition was in the workshops of Peter Waals in the Cotswolds. There I went and for a couple of glorious years worked at the bench. I had had lessons enough from FM to apply the Technique as I sawed and planed and cut dove-tails. I saw, of course, that FM was a very great craftsman in co-ordinating the human body. So I plunged into the Work with total commitment. The Alexander Technique was to be my life's work.

Having qualified, I taught on my own in London for two years, but had to admit that I was becoming just too isolated. None of my family or friends had the least clue as to what I was doing. I reached a stage when I simply could not keep it going, and I had to pull out into more understandable fields. Education was the obvious profession, so I plunged into teaching in the great school Gordonstoun founded by Kurt Hahn, in Scotland.

After the war I realized that adult education was the field I really wanted. I well remember the moment of dramatic change of direction. I was walking out the six miles to Gordonstoun from Elgin, to take up the job kept open for me. Halfway there I found myself going slower and slower. I remember the sandy road with a leaning Scots Pine tree and I just came to a stop as if an India-rubber rope was holding me from the back or an angel was standing in the way. And without thought, I just turned on my heel, turned my back on schoolmastering, and walked into Adult Education.

I was fired by the conception of what we could do with short residential courses in a great country house. England is full of marvellous houses. The weekend house-party has been a factor of enormous significance in English history, but only for the aristocracy, the well-off, the upper class families. After the war we all needed to get back to peace-time enthusiasms and interests. Why not use our great country houses, many of which had run into difficulties, as cultural centres for everybody from all classes? This was to be a metamorphosis of the country house party.

My dream came true and in 19471 was appointed as Principal of the finest of the new Colleges at Attingham Park, an 18th century mansion in Shropshire. For twenty-four wonderful years we laid on short courses on every imaginable theme, to fire people's enthusiasm in the post-war period. It was a great experience and some 3,000 people stayed each year with many more coming to concerts and drama events. Here I could experiment in exploring widening interests and also presenting my deepening understanding of the spiritual world-view. And behind it all was the knowledge and inspiration of the Alexander principle and its universal application.

We were experiencing the beginning of the real Holistic movement. What FM achieved was the marvellous demonstration of the absolute psycho-physical unity of the human body. It was an outstanding holistic demonstration. We now realize that Holism is a very profound and all-encompassing conception.

In this last generation the whole vision has widened with the understanding that the Earth is indeed a living entity with its own thinking, breathing and intelligence, and that nature is one integrated whole in all its immense diversity. It is to be seen as a great and complex work of art and design by the Source. Chance natural selection is no adequate explanation! Our intellectual, over-masculinated thinking, too often fails to see the total integrated life within nature and to grasp that the human being is truly the crown of nature. We're not mere observers of nature—we are nature. We are that focal point at which the divine design has evolved a creature who, through the separation of the brain into left and right hemispheres, is capable of thinking God's thoughts again. Left hemisphere, the intellectual, masculine faculties: Right hemisphere, the more intuitive, feminine, poetical faculties which can grasp the living whole and can apprehend the worlds of being, which on higher frequency-rates fill entire space. We have now, with our over-development of the left hemisphere, reached the stage when the organs of higher perception of the right hemisphere have, to some degree, atrophied and gone dormant. Therefore, the spiritual worlds—the worlds of higher consciousness and being, and even God Himself—have vanished for us through loss of the organs of perception to apprehend them. What is happening in our time is a re-balancing of these two sides of the brain, thus giving back to us a power of apprehending the worlds which are invisible to our ordinary senses. Our senses, after all, are so designed that we, as a spiritual being incarnated in a body and sojourning for a while in this heavy density of matter, should have organs by means of which we can see and hear and operate on this plane. They are not designed to see the invisible worlds, the higher worlds of spirit, which therefore have been thrown into doubt. Now the excitement of our time is that human beings are emerging in whom that balance is re-established.

It is also being demonstrated that thinking can be intensified so that the human mind can, in full consciousness, explore and gain direct knowledge of the Higher Worlds. A true spiritual science is being developed.

I now speak of a proposition which we owe to the scientist John White from America. He submits that a sub-species of Homo Sapiens is emerging in our time. Sapiens, with his over-balanced left hemisphere thinking, masculine, analytical, scientific but often destructive and violent, is bringing disaster to the planet of which he is the rightful steward. As Wordsworth put it:

Sweet is the lore that Nature brings.
Our meddling intellect
Destroys the beauteous form of things.
We murder to dissect.

We are now in a process of destroying the life of the planet—for gain and greed, because profit and money have become our God. We, the rightful stewards of the planet, have failed lamentably and culpably in our stewardship. Therefore great earth changes are coming upon us. The Green Movement represents the awakening of a truly holistic consciousness, and that which inspires this Congress of ours is a vital aspect of the emerging New Age vision. It is something on which the very salvation of mankind and the earth turns.

But White goes further in contending that a veritable new subspecies of humanity is emerging. He coined the scientific name of Homo Sapien Noeticus.

Noetics is the science of consciousness. Homo Sapien Noeticus, balanced male/female, is taking conscious, constructive control of him/herself.

Homo Sapien rushes downhill into catastrophe in inflated ego desire, fear of the future, fear of each other, prepared to use violence in order to satisfy its desires and greed. But among us are appearing individuals who have stopped in their egoistic tracks and said no.

Something of profound significance is emerging. It is possible for the human being consciously to stop, and inhibit reaction.

I think this talk might be called "Act. Don't React." This is what Noeticus is doing, in recognizing that there is something far more interesting than merely satisfying the demands and facing the fears, the hates and anxieties of the timebound ego. We experience the rising tide of love and human sympathy.

It is a dawning realization that, sliding along the line of time past and time future is this moment now. T.S. Eliot called it "the intersection point of the timeless with time." In that moment our Higher Self, or the living Christ or God Himself can be in direct touch with each human being. But the satanic beings, the adversary forces, are out to take over man, and the way they do it is to bind us to the time scale.

O my beloved, fill the cup that clears
Today of past regrets and future fears.

That line is from Omar Khayyam. Fear of the future and remorse or regrets about the past bedevil us. Yet there is nothing but this moment now. This is the secret to master, now—the intersection point of the timeless with time, when your Higher Self and your angelic guide can overlight you.

But know that the angelic powers, by Divine decree, are forbidden to take us over or impose their help on the human being until we wake up and call on them.

We get a majestic picture that this beautiful gem of a planet is designed as a point for the grandest experiment where a hierarchy of spiritual beings, "a little lower than the angels, but crowned with glory and honour", shall be trained to a new achievement in the universe—that in freedom, of their own volition and choice, they may open themselves to the inflooding of the Christ power, and thus become co-creators with God—truly friends of God. This should be seen as the true purpose of this planet.

At the entry into the Aquarian Age the waters of the spirit are being poured out and are washing away the barriers and structures which divided society in the Piscean Age for the last 2,000 years. The old is breaking down and, despite the present chaos, a new potential comes to mankind in this immensely exciting race between consciousness and disaster. Can a sufficient number of human beings (Homines Noetici) stop in their tracks and take conscious, constructive control of themselves? That is what FM achieved and demonstrated for us. This is an essential factor in the redemption of humanity. FM gave us the key, combining the knowledge of the true nature of bodily use and co-ordination and the significance of inhibiting immediate reaction in order to break old habit and follow the 'means whereby' any end could be achieved.

Oh! the wonder of giving the direction, the giving of consent! A phrase he used was "The essence of will is the intention. The body carries it out, we do not know how." He used to protest that people would try to DO this thing. "Why won't they think?" Oh the wonder of stopping, withholding response to a stimulus and experiencing the total control and the sense of freedom that opens the way to any course of action. You can play that game with yourself the whole time. Indeed, you must do so!

Here I bring in Shakespeare's Sonnet No. 94:

They that have power to hurt and will do none
That do not do the thing they most do show
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone
Unmoved, cold and to temptation slow,
They rightly do inherit Heaven's graces
And husband nature's riches from expense,
They are the Lords and owners of their faces
Others but stewards of their excellence.

It is the poets who often express the great truths for our holistic age. They are working with the right hemisphere of the brain, which can apprehend the Oneness of All Life and being.

All are but parts of One stupendous whole
Whose body nature is and God the soul.

That was said by Alexander Pope, an early visionary for the New Age. And now listen to Coleridge, who wrote 150 years ago, but describes modern man!

There is one Mind, one omnipresent Mind
Omnific. His most holy name is Love.
Truth of subliming import...
Tis the sublime in man,
Our noontide Majesty, to know ourselves
Parts and proportions of one wondrous whole.
This fraternises man...
Made blind by lusts, disinherited of soul,
No common centre Man, no common sire
Knoweth! A sordid solitary thing
Mid countless brethren with a lonely heart
Through courts and cities the smooth savage roams,
Feeling himself, his own low self, the whole;
When he by sacred sympathy might make
The Whole one Self! Self that no alien knows,
Self, far diffused as fancy's wing can travel!
Self, spreading still! Oblivious of its own
Yet all of all possessing! This is Faith!
This the Messiah's destined victory!

Look at that stupendous last line. It is possible for separated, isolated, ego-bound man to inhibit, to stop, to withhold reaction and to identify with the totality of humanity as one vast Being. This is "the Messiah's destined victory." Nothing can stop this ultimate triumph of Light and Love over the darkness of the world. You realize this—that the forces of the Light cannot be defeated. Their ultimate victory is certain. Armageddon is launched in the conflict between the forces of Light under the Cosmic Christ and the Archangel Michael, and the opposing forces of satanic darkness. These have no compunction about direct attack upon us—Lucifer to inflate our egoism and Ahriman, the Lord of Darkness, to deny the Spirit. They strive to possess the human intellect and the human will and deny the Light in the heart. And so the monsters of cruelty emerge in our time. The battle is indeed joined, but the forces of the Light are forbidden to take us over without our invitation and invocation. This is the paradox. They are there and ultimately must win. The Light must destroy the darkness in the end. But they are waiting for our recognition because, when the human being really in freedom chooses to react into wholeness, then they can flood divine energy through him.

Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er by the pale cast of thought
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

Act. Don't react. That is what we are learning, and its achievement implies the emergence of a new humanity.

Although for half a century I have been out of direct touch with the Alexander Movement, I have watched it quietly spreading and taking its place, worldwide, in the New Renaissance. May I say that it is an immense delight for me to come to this great gathering and I am deeply grateful for the invitation to lecture. I have never for one moment doubted the stupendous truth of what Alexander has shown us. In my eighties I realize ever more clearly the profound significance of the power of withholding reaction in order to release directed response. It is an art of dynamic "thinking in activity."

Thus I come back now to find nearly five hundred teachers gathered from all over the world—half the strength of this world movement, which is really taking its place in the emergence of a New Age. There never was such a time to be alive!

Let me close on a passage from Christopher Fry's play A Sleep of Prisioners. The situation of the play is that prisoners of war are locked in an empty church in the night and they smoke and they bicker and they sleep and they talk, and one after another they are taken over by higher consciousness which speaks through them. Finally Meadows, the Sergeant, is taken over and says this, which to my mind very well summarizes the stage the world has now reached and the challenge to us all:

The human heart can go the lengths of God.
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries cracks, breaks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.
Thank God our Time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us till we take
The longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise
Is exploration into God.
Where are you making for? It takes
So many thousand years to wake
But will you wake for pity's sake?

That is our challenge. Affairs are now soul size. The enterprise is Exploration into God.


Sir George Trevelyan was on the first teacher training course run by Alexander in 1931. 

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