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Anthony M. Ludovici  (1882 – 1971)

Anthony M. Ludovici was a popular British author who wrote on all sorts of topics:  the relation between the sexes, health, medical history, religion, art, politics.  Early in his career he had a series of lessons from  F. M. Alexander in London, from 1925 to 1929, and became a champion of the Alexander Technique.  Alexander mentions with approval two of his writings on the Technique in The Universal Constant in Living  (1941).  Ludovici, who had given up a professional painting career, painted Alexander’s portrait towards the end of Alexander’s life.

In the final chapter of  Man: an Indictment  (1927) Ludovici gives one of the earliest published accounts of the Alexander Technique, though the book as a whole is on another subject.  Later he wrote the first book about the Alexander Technique not by Alexander,  Health and Education through Self-Mastery  (1933) – it’s listed in the Mouritz Alexander Technique Bibliography.  He wrote a two part article,  “A Newton of health”  for The New English Weekly (1944-45) amounting to a book review of Alexander’s last book.  The fourth chapter of The Four Pillars of Health (1945) is devoted to the Technique.  He tells how he came to take lessons in part of a chapter of Religion for Infidels (1961).  You will find links to these texts at the end of this article.  Ludovici also mentions the Technique briefly in The Truth About Childbirth (1937).

In some respects Ludovici was an unattractive character and anything positive one might want to say about him must begin with an apology.  As we began by noting, he wrote on other subjects besides the Alexander Technique.  Some of this work is interesting, but unfortunately some of it is repugnant, indeed well-nigh unreadable.  Because of this baggage his endorsement of the Technique, like that of the similarly encumbered John Dewey, may discourage prospective pupils from taking lessons.

Still, he understood the essentials of the Alexander Technique and wrote literately about it.  As mentioned above, Alexander himself referenced  Health and Education through Self-Mastery  in  The Universal Constant in Living.  Unlike Dewey, Ludovici made no claim that the Technique illustrates his own philosophy (except briefly in Religion for Infidels).  And unlike Dewey he may actually have practiced it well himself.

Thus we have a perverse gift:  a fairly competent exposition of the Alexander Technique, the Technique recommended for the benefit it confers, and that benefit and the expositor’s peculiar ideas sometimes packaged together. [1]

Another problem for the novice is that Ludovici uncritically repeats Alexander’s errors along with his insights.  There are several such errors, none of which affect the practical aspect of the Technique.  We illustrate some of them in the quotes below, from Ludovici’s  Man: an Indictment.

Ludovici, like Alexander, sometimes engages in name-dropping:  he quotes John Dewey, calling him  “the distinguished American philosopher.”  (page 312)  The socialist Dewey and the fascist Ludovici, a fitting pair ! [2]

Returning to Man: an Indictment, Ludovici repeats Alexander’s creaky evolutionary ideas:

“... owing to the repeated extensive disturbances of the harmony between man and his environment, which have been brought about by the too rapid changes of civilization, ... man’s equipment in instincts has been unable to deal adequately with the ... problem of adaptation, and the grievous result has been that his instinctive reactions are no longer reliable and lead to a harmful use of himself in almost everything he does.” (page 310)
Alexander discovered and defined “use” and in the process developed a way to acquire and teach good use.  He went on to ask why man so often has poor use to begin with.  His answer, as Ludovici begins to relate above, won’t bear close scrutiny.  Ludovici repeats Alexander’s postural Lamarckism, or rather exaggerates it.

Like Alexander, Ludovici imitated some of the lingo of the behavioral psychologists who were popular at that time.  All one’s actions are “reactions to the environment”  (Alexander used different wording though:  response to a stimulus)  where the mind, in contrast to the behavioral psychologists who deny its existence, is part of the environment – as if one were split and reacting to oneself.

Another error is more in Ludovici’s exposition than in Alexander:

“... if it be true that the function of the intellect is merely a derivative of the muscular sense — and there are many cogent reasons for accepting this view — then it is obvious that a faulty use of self debauches the mind itself; because a perverted sensory appreciation in the body must find its counterpart in a perverted consciousness.  And thus even the modern man’s concepts become suspect and unreliable.

“When once this is acknowledged, the importance of Mr. Alexander’s proposed correction increases a hundredfold; for, in addition to being a prophylactic against faulty functioning, it is seen to be a corrective of conceptual aberration or perverted consciousness.”  (starting page 353)
In one of his books, in a footnote I think, Alexander does hint at something like Ludovici’s first sentence, but he never elaborated as Ludovici does here.  The elaboration, at least, is absurd.  The product of the sum and difference of any two numbers always equals the difference of their squares.  It’s hard to imagine one’s muscles having anything constructive to offer regarding that proposition.

Proper use is irrelevant to correct ideas.  The best interpretation I could give to Alexander’s vague hint is that proper use promotes calmness and self-control which might eventually and indirectly lead to better ideas — without of course being those ideas.

Finally, in chapter 12 Ludovici’s use of the phrase “central control” is as obscure as Alexander’s of “primary control.”

Besides uncritically repeating Alexander’s errors, Ludovici makes errors of his own.  There follow examples.  We won’t balance them with examples where he is correct because that includes most of his writing on the Alexander Technique.

He writes:

“Modern man must be re-educated in a knowledge which he has lost, and the loss of which causes him to do untold damage to himself.  The animals have apparently not lost this knowledge, which consists in the proper use of self.  ... Mr. Alexander ... proceeds to ask whether we have any other means of reacting to environment.  To this question he replies most emphatically ‘Yes,’ and he says that the old instinctive reactions must be replaced by consciously controlled actions.”  (page 351)
“Knowledge” is the wrong word.  An animal’s use (and typically it is good use) is automatic, unconscious.  Good use is not knowledge in the usual sense.  Modern toddlers generally have excellent use (there is some variation).  Most lose this good use, but not the knowledge of good use, which knowledge, like the animals, they never had.

I would emphasize the word “other” in the last half of Ludovici’s account quoted above.  Though animals and toddlers are unconscious of their use, a man or older child can acquire consciousness of theirs.  Alexander developed something quite different from what motivates animals and toddlers, and he took care to emphasize that difference.  (By the way, note more of the inappropriate behaviorist jargon, “reacting to environment,” in Ludovici’s account.)

Ludovici confuses good use with all-around sanity:

“[After lessons] the quality of sanity, so little understood nowadays, appears as a permanent possession.  The uncontrolled man who, to the rest of the world seems normal, then begins to strike the pupil as merely a ‘border-line case’ the gravity of whose automatisms is not sufficiently acute to lead to his confinement.”

Ludovici’s description of the Alexander Technique is only a small part of  Man: an Indictment.  Most of the book is about relations between the sexes.  Some of it is worth thinking about, but at times he has no more taste than the lab rats he would have us imitate.

In the fourth chapter of The Four Pillars of Health, “The Correct Use of Self,”  he again addresses the question why man typically has poor carriage.  He says that both animals and man possess what he calls “dual control” of their carriage: instinctive control and conscious control.  He gives the example of a rabbit which normally runs about instinctively, but should the rabbit happen to cut its paw it still manages to run to safety on three legs by, according to Ludovici, switching from instinctive to conscious control.  This is hard to follow considering that we know nothing about the rabbit mind.  Then he claims that man is a quadruped trying to be a biped, and consequently can’t manage the switch.  This is all hopelessly confused.

In Religion for Infidels (1961) he mentions John Magee, who wrote about relaxation and prayer, and Emile Coué, author of Self Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion (1922) who maintained (quoting Ludovici):  “if we wish to contact and mobilize the life forces for any purpose, the imagination rather than the will is the mental medium to be employed.”  (“Any purpose” includes – at least to Ludovici – what happens to any object, including other people.  One example Ludovici gives, before bringing up Coué, is that if you unconsciously imagine – rather than consciously desire – the destruction of a man, he will get sick and die!  Rather like voodoo, though he doesn’t use that word.)  Now so far Ludovici hasn’t mentioned the Alexander Technique, but he then  “pulls a Dewey” – to coin a phrase – and claims the Alexander Technique illustrates Coué’s general idea:  “My belief in Coué’s teaching was never more completely confirmed than when, in the early months of 1925, I became a regular pupil of Mathias Alexander ...” – the idea being that Alexander’s direction is a particular case of Coué’s general idea regarding imagination.  This one aside is the only place where Ludovici makes this – crazy – connection.  (Unlike Dewey, who elaborates, and repeatedly, an alleged connection between the Technique and his philosophy.)  The fallacy consists in taking a vague statement and claiming it includes an Alexander Technique particular.

If I’ve given the impression that Ludovici’s treatment of the Alexander Technique is riddled with error it’s only because I’ve focused on the negative.  Most of Ludovici’s writing on the Technique is sound.  Focus on the what and skip over the why (and the Coué nonsensical aside).  He understood the essence, even if he was confused about side issues.  I think his main value, though, is that his writing is old and possesses the charm of an earlier era.

·   ·   ·
    As we noted at the beginning, Ludovici didn’t confine his writing to the Alexander Technique, he was a prolific writer on a variety of subjects.  To finish up I’ll focus on his political work, because it is relevant today and also most in need of critique.

He attacks the idea of private property in the pamphlet The Sanctity of Private Property, published in 1932.  He would have the iron hand of the state, controlled by a true aristocracy he would set up, take from those it designates fools and give to those it designates wise, with the “welfare of the community” as the standard of choice.

In The Specious Origins of Liberalism:  The Genesis of a Delusion (1967),  where he uses the word “liberal” in the now old-fashioned sense of “liberty,”  he seeks to justify aristocracy — that is, command by brute force.  Like the philosopher he admires, Friedrich Nietzsche, he is eloquent in denouncing contemporary ethics, which would sacrifice the strong to the weak, or as he puts it elsewhere,  “the greater to the lesser.”  His answer, though, is not to reject sacrifice but rather to sacrifice  “the lesser to the greater.”

In the pseudonymous pamphlet Jews, and the Jews in England (1938), Ludovici denounces (laissez-faire) capitalism.  He claims Jews — despite Marx and Engels, the founders of Communism;  Trotsky, Yagoda, Kaganovich, Reichman, Kamenev, Zinoviev, practically the entire Bolshevik leadership;  and Zionism, whose politics is socialist — promote and are fostered by this detestable capitalism. [3]  His ethnology is suspect and the evolutionary arguments, like all such arguments, unconvincing.

In Religion for Infidels he claims the Ancient Greeks focused on the mind to the exclusion of the body, and promoted the sick and infirm.  This is difficult to square with their famous attitude of a healthy mind in a healthy body, though they wouldn’t have put it that way since they viewed man as a unity.  Socrates may have held what Ludovici erroneously claims was common in Ancient Greece, but then Socrates was not the most popular man in Athens.

Historically can he find an ideal social system?  No, but Ludovici thinks that medieval Venice approached it.  In his book The Quest of Human Quality: How to Rear Leaders (1952), section 49, he expresses his admiration for the Doges, the Council of Ten and the rest of the totalitarian apparatus of medieval Venice.

Ludovici uses the term “psycho-physical” throughout The Quest of Human Quality (1952):  psycho-physical quality, psycho-physical harmony, psycho-physical worthiness, psycho-physically standardized, etc. — over two dozen variants, most repeated many times, and always in the sense of an unalterable attribute.  Fortunately for us he never mentions F.M. Alexander or the Alexander Technique.  The following is typical:

“The criterion consisting of psycho-physical superiority, however, concerns us closely; for, without it, the claim to be an élite among a people of quality is fundamentally false.  As Disraeli pointed out — and it is worth repeating — ‘the superiority of the animal man is an essential quality of aristocracy.’ ”  (page 201)

In another work,  A Defence of Conservatism (1927), Ludovici rejects the Enlightenment tradition:

“From [John] Locke to Herbert Spencer ... .  Everywhere we can discern that strain of loose thinking which inclines so readily to the fantastic notions of equality, the radical goodness of human nature, liberty, and the whole of the nonsensical rigmarole of romanticism.”  (page 132)
The fascist would rob you in the name of aristocracy, and give you some back by grace of noblesse oblige.  The socialist would rob you in the name of democracy, and give you some back by grace of welfare.  Either way you become someone’s slave.

Ludovici is of the same ilk as the socialists he criticizes:  a statist — whether socialist or fascist ultimately makes no difference.  Ludovici and others who opposed the Red Decade of the 1930s conceded the major premises of the enemy.  Britain, and indeed all of the Western world, is in the abysmal state it is today because of these intellectuals of yesteryear.  They had a good time, and left us the dregs.

·   ·   ·
    From the The Unknown Dewey website:
[Our purpose]  is to show that Dewey’s philosophy has nothing to do with the Alexander Technique, indeed is opposed to it, that Dewey’s philosophy is unattractive in other respects, and that teachers ought to shun Dewey’s testimonials.
The same can be said of Ludovici and his ideas, except that his ideas are not so opposed to the Alexander Technique as irrelevant.

There isn’t much need for an  “Anthony Ludovici vs. the Alexander Technique”  website – though this article serves that purpose – because, unlike with John Dewey, Ludovici’s ideas aren’t promoted by misguided Alexandrians.

Both Dewey and Ludovici make poor ambassadors of the Alexander Technique, but if we set aside their political and philosophical baggage, which man is the better expositor?  This is a matter of taste, but to my mind the answer is Ludovici.  His writing on the Alexander Technique is far more readable than Dewey’s generally opaque prose.

One must make a distinction between a testimonial and a description.  A testimonial or endorsement of the Alexander Technique relies on the overall reputation of the man giving it, on the other hand a description of some aspect of the Technique can be judged on its merits.  A testimonial from either Dewey or Ludovici, as shown above for Ludovici and in The Unknown Dewey for Dewey, is worthless.  On the other hand a description of the Technique from either of these men can be taken for itself, though we’d rather have it from someone more reputable.  When the good descriptions are published, they should be accompanied by a comment rejecting the author’s other work.  (The only thing Dewey ever wrote on the Technique worth reading is a brief analysis about telling someone to stand up straight.  What we object to is Alexandrians promoting Dewey himself along with it.)

·   ·   ·
    Here are Ludovici’s Alexander Technique writings, except that so far there’s only an excerpt from Health and Education through Self-Mastery which was reprinted in  The Alexander Technique: In Conversation with John Nicholls and Sean Carey.  Excerpts from Religion for Infidels are reprinted as  “How I came to have lessons with F. M. Alexander”  in  The Philosopher's Stone: Diaries of Lessons with F. Matthias Alexander,  edited by Jean Fischer.  These two – the second and next to last below – are the best of the lot.

1927  Man: an Indictment  - from chapter XI  - from chapter XII
1933  Health and Education through Self-Mastery, excerpt
1944  A Newton of health  - part I  - part II
1945  The Four Pillars of Health, chapter IV
1961  Religion for Infidels, from chapter VIII
post.  Confessions of an Anti-Feminist, from chapter IV


1  From an essay about G. K. Chesterton:
“I cannot help wishing at times that Mr. Chesterton could be divided in two.  One half of him I should like to challenge to mortal combat as an enemy of the human race.  The other half I would carry shoulder-high through the streets.  For Mr. Chesterton is at once detestable and splendid.”  (“The Two Mr. Chestertons”  in  Old and New Masters  by  Robert Lynd,  1919, first published in The Nation magazine, 1917.)
Mr. Ludovici is detestable as an advocate of government enforced aristocracy, and quite good in places as an expositor of the Alexander Technique.

2  Dewey visited Russia in 1928 and praised the Soviet government’s efforts to create “by means of education, a new mentality in the Russian people.”  Ludovici visited Germany in the early 1930s and told the British public (in “Hitler and the Third Reich”) about what fine work the Nazis were doing: 
“ ‘Not individual gain, but the common good!’  This can be read on almost every hoarding.  And it is no empty phrase.  It genuinely inspires the mass of the people, ... while the gigantic work of reconstruction is in progress.”
John Dewey praised the Bolshevists for  “substituting a collective mentality for the individualistic psychology inherited from the ‘bourjui’.”  He referred to  “the marvelous development of progressive educational ideas and practices under the fostering care of the Bolshevist government.”  All these Dewey quotes are from his book  Impressions of Soviet Russia and the Revolutionary World .

Some years later Dewey stopped praising Stalin’s Russia (though never socialism) and viewed Stalin’s fellow murderer, Trotsky, as some kind of hero for being purged.

It’s amazing how similar in tone – breathless, admiring, agog – is Dewey’s book (made up of reprints of articles first published in The New Republic, 1928)  to  Ludovici’s article  “Hitler and the Third Reich”  (in  The English Review, 1936).

The Red Decade would be better called the Statist Decade.  The intelligentsia of that day was rife with admirers of the Communists in Russia and the Fascista in Italy – the common denominator being government control, whether “socialist” or “fascist.”  (There isn’t much difference in practice.  Recall that “Nazi” is short for “National Socialist.”)  Hitler ended crime, Mussolini made the trains run on time, Stalin and Trotsky created a workers paradise!

Today the typical intellectual judges Dewey, Ludovici and their contemporaries by a flexible standard.  The reputations of past admirers of Hitler are irremediably tarnished;  as for admirers of Trotsky and Stalin – who were responsible for killing many times more men than Hitler – that phase of their life gets discreetly overlooked.  Rather than exercising a double standard, the statism of both groups should be denounced.

Of the two – Dewey and Ludovici – a case could be made that Dewey is worse because his socialist writing actually had practical effect:  it was used by others to justify “progressive politics” (the New Deal, Fair Deal, etc.), turn schools away from learning to “socializing,” and end the first wave of Montessori schools in the U.S.  Ludovici’s fascist writing had no practical effect other than in part me-tooing the socialists and in part making the socialists look good compared to a false alternative.

3  By “capitalism” I mean the political system that would protect each individual’s property rights.  If by “capitalist” is meant not an advocate of capitalism but anyone with money to spend, then many Western, even American, “capitalists” were and are in the vanguard of socialism.

The late Anthony Sutton investigated Western support of Soviet Russia in detail and wrote four books on the subject:
Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development (three volumes), published by Stanford University
National Suicide: Military Aid to the Soviet Union
The Best Enemy Money Can Buy
Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution
The last two are available online.  At the time of this writing Sutton’s Wikipedia biography is well written (unusual for Wikipedia!):
www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_C._Sutton