Man’s Supreme Inheritance

F M Alexander

In 1910 Alexander published ‘Man’s Supreme Inheritance’ followed in 1911 and 1912 by an ‘Addenda’ and ‘Conscious Control’. Originally Alexander wrote in 1910 to protect his work from plagiarism. By 1918 he amalgamated the three books and published them together under the earlier title of ‘Man’s Supreme Inheritance’ (MSI) with second and third editions appearing in the 1940s.

The book is organised in three sections: Part One, ‘Man’s Supreme Inheritance’, Part Two, ‘Conscious Guidance and Control’ and Part Three, ‘The Theory and Practice of a New Method of Respiratory Re-education’. The third part was originally a pamphlet Alexander wrote in 1907 and is short in comparison to the first two parts. Ninety years have seen a considerable change in the understanding of the physiology and mechanisms of breathing, but Alexander’s main points do not depend on this for their validity

In MSI Alexander sets out his statement of theTechnique and its significance for mankind against the evolutionary background provided by the ideas of Darwin and Lamarck before him. “man’s supreme inheritance” is in fact the acquisition of conscious control – the next stage in human evolution according to Alexander. In the book he introduces and expounds the concepts central to his work: habit, change, re-education and conscious control, using a wide range of concrete examples and anecdotes. He emphasises from the start that habits of thought underlie ‘habits of body’ and that meaningful change must address both issues. A substantial section on physical culture discusses the shortcomings of exercise systems of any kind as a remedy for the fundamental problem that misuse represents and his discussion here is as relevant today as when it was written.