Bibliography > Paper > Books by F. M. Alexander
Picture missing

F. Matthias Alexander. Edited by Jean M. O. Fischer.
The Universal Constant in Living [2000]
Hardback. 416 pages. 1941 (2000).
Published by Mouritz (UK). 234 x 153 mm.
ISBN 0952557444/978-0952557449.
Status: In print. Publisher website
First published 23 June 2000
The scholarly edition, very detailed with 207 notes but it gets a bit heavy.
Mouritz description
This edition consists of the complete text of Alexander’s last (1946) edition with additional material from earlier editions and comprehensive notes. Reviews of the ?rst edition are added to the original appendices and one appendix contains material which was omitted from the first edition. Additional photographs. 207 endnotes. Index.
  • Foreword by Walter Carrington
    Recent Appreciations
    A Thanks Offering (First edition)
    Appreciation by George E. Coghill
    Preface to First Edition (1941)
    Preface to New Edition (1946)
    Introductory Notes by Jean M. O. Fischer
  • The Universal Constant in Living
    i The Constant Influence of Manner of Use for Good or Ill
    ii The Constant Influence of Manner of Use in Relation to Diagnosis and Disease
    iii A Review of the Report of the Physical Education Committee of the British Medical Association
    Part 1: Fallacies and Limitations in Physical Culture
    Part 2: A New Technique for New Soldiers
    iv A Technique for Prevention
    v The Constant Influence of Manner of Use in Relation to Change
    Part 1: The Human Element
    Part 2: Procedures Involved in the Technique: First Principles in the Control of Human Reaction
    Part 3: The Fundamental Approach
    vi Physiology and Physiologists
    vii The Theory of "The Whole Man" and Its Counterpart in Practice
    viii An Osteopath's Idea of a New Technique
    ix The Test of Principle in New Ways for Old
    x A New Pattern and Working to Principle
    xi Stupidity in Living
    xii Knowing How to Stop
    xii In Conclusion
  • Appendices
    a. Extract from Some Accomplishments of the Chemist by Thomas D. Hall
    b. Excerpts from The Function of the Sub-Occipital Muscles by Dr Andrew Murdoch
    c. Excerpts from Reorientation of the View Point Upon the Study of .i.anatomy;Anatomy by Dr Mungo Douglas
    d. Excerpts from an address by John Hilton
    e. Letters regarding tic douloureux
    f. Dr Wilfred Barlow on health and disease
    g. Excerpts from Bulletins from Britain
    h. Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life
    i. Text omitted from the 1946 edition
    j. Review "End-Gaining and Means Whereby" by Aldous Huxley
    k. Review "Finding the Whole Person" by Frank Pierce Jones
    l. Review "Power Through Posture" by Walter J. Millard
    m. Review "The Universal Constant in Living" in The Lancet
    n. Review "Conscious Control" Harry Roberts, with correspondence
    o. Review "A Product of Evolution" by Dr Mungo Douglas
    p. Review by K. A. Schrecker in Physical Education
  • Notes (207 notes by Jean M. O. Fischer)
  • References
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Publisher's description

The Universal Constant in Living was Alexander's fourth and last book. It contains his most mature and consummate thoughts on the Technique: knowledge accumulated in the course of more than 45 years of practical teaching experience.

This edition consists of the complete text of Alexander's last (1946) edition with additional material from earlier editions and comprehensive notes.

To the original appendices are added reviews of the first edition of The Universal Constant, and one appendix contains material which was omitted from the first edition.

Walter Carrington has written a new foreword for this edition. The introductory notes deals with Alexander's principle of wholeness and of prevention, the writing of The Universal Constant as well as notes on changes in the text.

In addition, a substantial number of notes give information on people, places, events, and subjects referred to throughout the book. Comprehensive cross-references and a new, detailed index are also provided. As well as the original photographs the book contains additional illustrations. One of the photographs proves that Alexander (albeit unknowingly) used the wrong picture of the Army's standing-to-attention position.

First published 1941 in the USA and in 1942 in the UK. Second edition 1943. Third edition 1946. Mouritz edition published June 2000.

416 pages. Hardback. 22 b/w photos, 17 figures, 16 appendices. 234 x 153 mm. Printed on 90gsm Antique White Wove and bound in Snowdon cloth with ribbon marker.


Page 159, line 9
Read "responsibility" for "rsponsibility".

Missing from the bibliography:

Carrel, Alexis Man the Unknown (New York, Harper & Collins, 1937)

Reference no. 599, p. 339.

Read "Management" for "Managemnt".

Review by Francesca Greenoak
First published in STAT News, vol. 6, no. 2, 2000.

The new edition of this book is very welcome to those of us who have made do, uncomfortably, with a photocopy while it has been out of print, not simply because of ease of use but because of the notes that so clearly and interestingly amplify the text. In addition to identifying and placing many now obscure references to people, Jean Fischer explains allusions to ideas current in the 1940s, setting them in a social context. He also includes several longer sections giving the background to important references such as George Coghill’s developmental work on the genus Amblystoma and Murdoch’s investigations into the sub-occipital muscles.

The text used is the 1946 edition which includes an ‘introductory’ by Alexander that explains the title: “... the influence of the manner of use is a constant one upon the general functioning of the organism in every reaction and during every moment of life. . . It is an influence for ill or an influence for good in accordance with the nature of the manner of use of the self in living, and from this there is not any escape. Hence this influence can be said to be a universal constant in a technique for living.”

Fischer usefully points out where the 1946 edition differs from earlier ones. It is of special interest that this edition contains a change in how Alexander describes his discovery of the concept of primary control. Comparing his investigations with those of Coghill, Alexander describes how it was acute observation of human beings in whom abnormality had became established that “led me to discover that a particular relativity of the head to the neck and the head and the neck to the other parts of the organism tended to improve general use and functioning of the organism as a whole, and that the motivation for this use was from the head downwards, and, further, that any other particular relativity tended towards the opposite effect.”

Alexander wrote this fourth book in the hope that it would “be of help in clarifying misconceptions, and in emphasising the oneness of control and guidance of use and reaction.” Walter Carrington regards it as “a noble book”, but Frank Pierce Jones commented on “its lack of organisation” seeing it as “a scrapbook”. Certainly some reviewers of the time found it difficult, and there is little chance of its becoming a best-seller today. It is however of enormous value to teachers of the Alexander Technique for its insights into FMA’s mature thought and Mouritz is to be congratulated on bringing out this handsome volume.

2000 © Francesca Greenoak. Reproduced with permission.

This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.

Earliest publication date: 23 June 2000