The Universal Constant in Living

F M Alexander

‘The Universal Constant in Living’ was published nearly ten years after ‘The Use of the Self’ in 1941. By this time Alexander considered that he had already given a definitive account of the Technique in his previous writings. One of the considerations that prompted him to write this fourth book was his concern over the habitual tendency of his readers to misinterpret what he had to say in line with their own preconceived ideas.

In substance the book continues with the development of ideas from the previous three books. However, it is distinct from the others in the loose organisation of its material, which consists of a series of often unconnected observations on pertinent issues in the form of case histories, letters, articles from journals, and photographs from newspapers.

The text proper is preceded by an ‘Appreciation’ penned by George E. Coghill, one of the most eminent biologists of the period, who met Alexander for just a single weekend shortly before he (Coghill) died in 1941. During their meeting Alexander demonstrated his Technique to Coghill, who recognised in Alexander’s work a practical correlate to his own animal research into the relationship between total and partial patterns of action, and the unity of the organism in operation. He was sufficiently impressed by what he experienced to agree to provide this written endorsement of Alexander’s work.

In spite of UCL’s idiosyncratic format, this last book is not less important than the previous three. Here Alexander offers some of his most articulate and wide-ranging writing, extending his discussion of the problem of human reactivity along a broad front and providing more philosophical depth than his earlier books.