A Meeting of the Minds: Margaret Mead and Moshe Feldenkrais

moshe feldenkrais Oct 02, 2019

During the third year of the San Francisco training program, Margaret Mead visited us for most of a week. At the time, she was considered the pre-eminent cultural anthropologist of North America (and a very public intellectual). Friends had introduced Moshe and Mead, and as she became familiar with both Functional Integration and Awareness Through Movement, she became an advocate for him and his ideas. Some months later in an article, Mead wrote,

"Feldenkrais' method is the most sophisticated and effective method I have seen for the prevention and reversal of deterioration of function. We're condemning millions of people to a deteriorated old age that's not necessary."

Throughout her visit, she made herself available for conversations during class breaks, which were often quite long. I remember talking with her about language and abstract thinking and hardly being able to keep my end of the conversation going because I was so completely knocked out by her unique brilliance and intelligence. I had the feeling that Ms. Mead was a person cut from a completely different cloth than the rest of us--a feeling I also had around Moshe.

In her famous autobiography, Blackberry Winter, she described the experience of being homeschooled while living in a rural home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and then moving to the nearby town to attend high school. Ironically, that town, Doylestown, is where I live today. Her childhood home is nearby, as is where she is buried.

Moshe told a story about his first meeting with Mead in chapter two of The Elusive Obvious:

"A few years ago, I had the good fortune to be introduced to Margaret Mead by Jean Houston and Bob Masters in the Serendipity Restaurant in New York. When we were seated at our table, Mead said she would first like to ask a question to see if my answer rang a bell with her. During her anthropological studies, she had returned to the same island for more than twenty years, yet she had not been able to teach the inhabitants or their children certain foot movements—a kind of hopping from one foot to the other, in spite of the fact that the people were good hunters and fishermen. I was unable to give a precise answer without knowing a little more about the movement, but I told her, in my view, the fault or interference most probably arose from an inhibition or taboo affecting crawling in early childhood. She exclaimed she believed that I was on the right track. She then told me that the people of that island do not allow their babies to touch the ground on all fours for fear that they will grow bestial. Crawling is, therefore eliminated altogether. That meeting was the start of a friendship which lasted until her death."


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