Moshe Feldenkrais’ Use Of The Word Idiot and Idiotic

As I have written many times, I love teaching about certain ideas that Feldenkrais was attempting to elucidate. That is especially true of the verbally directed movement and body-awareness sequences that are sometimes called, "Awareness Through Movement." However, there is a great deal that Moshe taught that could be damaging and toxic. He was prone to emotional outbursts and anger as Thomas Hanna noted:

"Feldenkrais’ practice of Functional Integration was far superior to his teaching of it. At an intuitive level, Feldenkrais was a master, but it was difficult for him to explain why. Accordingly, he was threatened by direct questions from his students, usually responding with angry tirades against the questioner."

The "angry tirades" that Thomas mentioned would often include calling his students and other thinkers, "idiots" and "idiotic." For example, here is Feldenkrais speaking about Matthias Alexander

"He is a man who was a genius a few hours in his life. The rest of the time, he was an idiot." August 15, 1977, San Francisco Training.

And speaking to his students and attendees of his classes:

"Do it until it hurts, do it like an idiot."

"Your head and leg begin approaching one another when the internal voice of the idiot truly stops pushing you to do more than you can." - Alexander Yanai # 32: Lengthening and straightening the left leg (A continuation of Lesson 31)

And people in online Feldenkrais forums go into all kinds of intellectual contortions to try and justify Moshe's use of the word idiot. For example,

"I don't know where I heard/learned this from, but it was that Moshe never called someone "stupid," but always used the word "idiotic," implying more "crazy." The implication in this was that the person knew they weren't a true idiot, and so the comment was not an attack on their personhood/knowledge in the way that calling a person stupid would have been." From a FeldyForum post.

I have a better idea. Do not try to justify. Do not try to explain. Just stop. See your friends and students and colleagues and other people as human beings who are doing the best that they can.

And so that you know, at this moment we are not just talking about behaviors that happened 40 years ago. Feldenkrais trainers, assistant trainers still use the same type of abusive language towards me and other people. For example,

"Ryan Nagy, is an idiot who has no respect for the feelings of others!" That is from a post on the Facebook profile of a "senior" Feldenkrais Trainer who "knew Mosh Feldenkrais personally."

And how about this: "You are an idiot." From a Feldenkrais Assistant trainer and former President of the Feldenkrais Guild Board of Directors on the (now closed) FeldyForum.

"Ryan is not an idiot, he is idiotic." This message comes from another Feldenkrais Trainer, a woman whom I have never met nor interacted with.

Again, just stop. Stop imitating Moshe. Stop the attacks. Stop the bullying. Be your own person.