quick reflection on the concept of “holism”

Body Project Blog ~ Where thought is the active ingredient.

Holism is a fundamental construct of the Alexander Technique, but the word is cheapened by new age nostrums and advertising. Who among us does not feel Whole, and maybe even Holy after a trip to Whole Foods to buy ourselves the most Earthy, *Truthy,* Healthy (not to mention Pricey) items? Whole is a term that has lost it’s integrity.

Lewis Thomas writes, “The word “holistic” was invented in the 1920’s by the South African philosopher and politician Jan Smuts*, to provide shorthand for the almost self-evident truth that any living organism, and perhaps any collection of organisms, is something more than the sum of its’ working parts.**’ Thomas goes on to say, “The word is becoming trendy, a buzzword, almost lost to science. What is called holistic thought these days strikes me as more like the transition from a mind like a steel trap to a mind like steel wool.”* And yet, given all that, the mind, the body, the complete self is inherently “whole” and deserves a scientific framing. It is possible to study systems.

F.M. Alexander was an astute observer of the human animal, and one of the first Westerners to describe the inseparable nature of mind and movement. Our emotional winds, our finally held beliefs, our predictions based on past learning are all tied to physical expression and visa versa. You might aim to free your shoulder or free your mind, and suddenly experience how a singular action effects the network of being. We are whole in the sense of the indivisibility of the self.

*It’s unfortunate but true that Smuts’ view on race was not nearly so advanced. He subscribed to the deplorable views of his time.
**The Fragile Self, Lewis Thomas, pp 72-73.