“All professions are conspiracies against the laity” - George Bernard-Shaw.
I encountered the quote above on the website of The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. It is directly relevant to members of the Feldenkrais community, especially former and current members of the Feldenkrais Guild.
"The way in which professions acquire prestige, power and wealth is by taking unto themselves a body of knowledge and expertise and only relinquishing it in doses in exchange for payment. The creation of dependency is an intrinsic part of that process." http://jech.bmj.com/content/57/3/161.2.full
Dependency And The Feldenkrais Guild
I have often thought about dependency and the Feldenkrais Guild system. Dependency is baked into the system. Although the work itself can lead to reductions in anxiety and increased ability to act in one's own behalf, the Guild system itself works in the opposite direction. It both increases the dependency and conformity of its members while simultaneously sidelining and sometimes outright ex-communicating those that refuse to conform. Consider Mia Segal and Yochanan Rywerant. Both highly-skilled practitioners and trainers had already been working directly with Moshe for decades when the young american neophyte students took over. The americans tried to force their elders (and betters in my opinion) to conform to their own rules and vision for the Method. They refused. Conform or be cast out. In a future post, I will share with you a detailed first-person from Paul Rubin about how he sidelined Mia Segal and forced her to stop teaching in the U.S. Keep in mind that Mia was one of Paul's teachers and mentors. If one of your students told you how to conduct your work and practice, what would you do?
"This is what Feldenkrais wanted," is what David Bersin, Paul Rubin, Denis Leri, Jerry Karzen and others have been telling us for decades. If only it were so.
What is the function of the Feldenkrais Guild?
The behavior of a system cannot be known just by knowing the elements of which the system is made. - Donella H. Meadows. Thinking in Systems: A Primer (p. 7). Kindle Edition.
Even a casual observation of the history of the Feldenkrais Guild shows that its function is to limit access. It limits decision making to those who trained directly with Moshe or have been approved by the same. It drastically limits the number of people who can use the service marks to run trainings. This limits the number of trainings, artificially increasing the price. Thus, not only do 99% of all practitioners not have the option of learning to conduct trainings, but the training formats cannot evolve. The system has closed off experimentation of training and training formats. New ideas are not tested. New ideas are not used. The status quo rules. This, regardless of the fact that no more than a few people graduate from each training and begin their own practice.
For now, I will not describe in detail how the Guild system limits access to many of the materials and shuts out the public from purchasing nearly all of the materials related to training.
Deeper and Deeper
In the case of the Feldenkrais Guild system, though, the conspirancy against the laity is much deeper. The so-called Feldenkrais "Trainers" who started the Guild and still largely control it, have not only taken the archival materials and created barriers to accessing it. But they have also used the acquisition of the service marks (®) as a kind of mental and legal trick to say that they and they alone are doing "true Feldenkrais." Moshe's most experienced, and some might say, most capable students, such as Mia Segal, Anat Baniel, Ruthy Alon, the belated Yochanan Rywerant and many others, have been repeatedly and constantly belittled as doing "derivative" work and not "true" Feldenkrais. Why is that? The core of the matter is that they do not have legal access to use the service marked terms. That is it. There is not theoretical or educational measure. It is all legal. Not "true" Feldenkrais because they do not own the marks. And by the same messed-up logic if you do not pay to use the service marks or spend the money for a training you are not doing "true" Feldenkrais either.
Oh what a tangled web they weaved. But take heart! The end is near. The Guild is getting smaller and smaller. And if it does not end up in bankruptcy, another lawsuit will surely end it all. Some practitioners are scared of that, and in the short term, they should be. Things will get tough for a while. Especially if these practitioners have not developed their own email lists and marketing materials and following and ways of communicating intelligently about the work.
But even that may not be fatal as independent practitioners groups will likely spring up to take up the slack. But there will be a big difference. The new practitioner organizations that emerge will self-generating and self-organizing around practitioners needs and practitioners goals. The guild we have now is a "Trainer Guild" and it deserves its death.
"If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth.” Carl Sagan
I do not completely agree with Carl Sagan's quote above, as the "truth" as created by a human being is nearly always a personal truth or a social convention. Even scientific "truths" are socially created, though it is heresy to speak of that. But people have sent me emails asking me why I write about this stuff and the usefulness (or not) of the current Feldenkrais "truths" is on my mind quite a bit. People often tell me that what I write depresses them. That puzzles me.
I write about these topics because I find it liberating and motivating. What could be more wonderful than discovering more and more of our own potential to act? Much of what you have been told about Moshe Feldenkrais is a myth. That is good thing. Discover the man for yourself, however you choose to do so. And a great deal of what you have been told about the history of the Guild is a lie. That is fantastic! Not only do the emperors not have any clothes, they are not even emperors! Screw them and their lame rules made to serve their own egos, pocketbooks and confused epistemologies. You can do what you want with this work. It is yours. Use it as you see fit to make THE world and YOUR world better. The Method is yours.
Thanks for reading. This blog post was just a warm-up. Much more is on the way. Be the first to read my blog posts and be deeply offended: join my email list.
"Liberate your mind and your practice will follow." - Ryan C. Nagy
From somewhere in Mexico.