Feldenkrais and Einstein On Process Without Language

I was reading a passage from the book Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less and saw a quote by Albert Einstein about his creative process. It instantly reminded me of some similar thoughts by Moshe on his process of self-use as reported in Body Awareness as Healing Therapy: The Case of Nora
Both quotes are below.

Einstein: When Language Interferes


“The words of the language as they are written or spoken do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements of thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which . . . are in my case of visual and some of muscular type. [These elements take part in] a rather vague play… in which they can be voluntarily reproduced and combined… This combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought, before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of sign which can be communicated to others . . . In a stage where words intervene at all, they are, in my case, purely auditive, but they interfere only in a secondary stage.” Hare Brain, p. 56.

Fascinating. To Einstein, visual and muscular “entities” are the essential elements of thought before becoming connected with words.

Feldenkrais: I make a special effort not to think in words.

Moshe Feldenkrais Image

“When I am presented with a trouble in function, I make a special effort not to think in words. I try not to think logically and in correctly formed sentences. It has become a habit with me to imagine the relevant nervous structures by seeing them with my mind’s eye. I imagine a part which produces a flow of fluid. Part of the travel of the fluid is electrical, then becomes chemical, and again electrical. After many transformations the flow will end in a muscular contraction, and the muscular play will result in some apparent outside action involving the body, or parts of it, that will affect or transform the immediate environment. Sometimes I am stuck at a point where I cannot imagine the pattern of the flow, nor the possible obstacles in its way. Then I ask, is the obstacle a diffusion, damping, deviation, loss of impetus, break of continuity, or an impossibility of one of the transformations.

I have found this way of imagining so fruitful that I cannot do without it. It often shows me where my knowledge is insufficient so that I know exactly what I am after and therefore in which books I am likely to find the information. I form a working theory and change it in the light of new observations I must add to make the theory work. This mode of thinking is often successful in situations where specialists with greater knowledge than mine have failed. Nobody is omniscient enough to think mechanically.” Body Awareness, p. 16

11 thoughts on “Feldenkrais and Einstein On Process Without Language

  1. Lisa

    Yes!!!! Fewer words. Let “things” cook and sizzle. Have you read Virginia Woolf’s description in “A Room of One’s Own” about the emergence of an idea? Deeee-lish—ous!

  2. nagster Post author

    Hi Lisa – Thanks for the comment. I have not read the piece by Virginia Woolf, I will check it out. cheers – Ryan

  3. Lisa

    Ryan I would copy it out but it’s a bit long. You can find the piece beginning at the top of page 5 and continuing for three lines on the top of page 6. The edition I have of
    “A Room of One’s Own” is A Harvest Book, Harcourt, Inc. ISBN 0-15-678783-4. Great book, by the by.


  4. Lisa

    Hi Ryan, me again. May I suggest a couple of other sources on this topic? “The Dramatic Imagination” by Robert Edmond Jones. An essay entitled, “Where do those bright Ideas come from?” by Lancelot Law Whyte and a book which may be out of print entltled “The Art of Dance” Isadora Duncan. Also, a look at Nietzsche (who was also a composer, though second rate, still understands the creative impulse) and his concept of “frenzy”.

  5. Cynthia Allen

    Thanks Ryan. When Robert Dilts was trying to model Moshe Feldenkrais by reading his work (as I am sure you know he declined to allow Bandler and Grindler to model him), Dilts selected that very passage as a significant aspect of Moshe’s success or excellence. It seems like he may have also drawn the correlation to Einstein’s approach but I would have to search for the publication and read it again. I must say, I am aways away from the level of mastery.

  6. Robert McNeilly

    “When I think, all is lost” Cezane.
    Descate’s “Cognito ergo sum” – “I think, therefore I am” lead to a quip that he was at a dinner party, was asked if he wanted a dring replied “I think not” and disappeared. But best of all – Ogden Nash:-
    “The centipede asked which
    leg it would move
    ended in a ditch”

  7. shoshana wittenberg

    Very interesting.
    I know s-thing similar, in connection w. music.
    Some centuries ago, people would sing more and talk less, conversation was done through melodies. It was a habit that is lost. Today we sing less and talk more. What a pity!

  8. Kim

    Hey Ryan,
    Nice!! Makes me think about all I’ve read about his discussion of “energy,” which isn’t a lot….but makes me ponder. Sure seems like he’s got very healthy visualization skills in regards to currents and flow, etc.

    But, somewhat off topic . . . something that comes to my mind is a wondering about language today. Not in the way of attempting to be very precise and describing with exactness, but with regard to the inexactness found in teenagers and young adults. The number of new words and part words and sounds and acronyms and substitutions for the actual word are astounding. Just sit around and listen to them for an hour. It’s amazing. We could lament that they don’t know proper English, or recognize the art of the communication that is going on between them. They are using feeling and tone and prosodic distinctions and pacing and pauses or no pauses all in such a seemless way without having to stop and explain it to the other person. It’s really like watching an improv take place. I wonder if it’s an audible representation of the very deep firing of their nervous systems. There are the vestiges of disinhibition in this rambling and it seems meaningless to most adults I know, but it is very meaningful to these teens. And, interestingly, they are shaping and pushing the language we use to describe our thoughts. Are they therefore shaping and pushing our thoughts and opening us up to other ways of seeing the word.

    Fascinates me. Thanks for the quotes…..nice way to start the week!

    1. Kim

      Next to last sentence meant to read…..

      Are they therefore shaping and pushing our thoughts and opening us up to other ways of seeing the world?

  9. shoshana wittenberg

    I completely agree w. Kim. I read my granddaughter’s discussion in Face Book, and I am amazed of the words she uses (no meaning for me) and the replies she get from her friends. More than 1/2 I do not understand.And I am wondering if this is due my age or some dis concordance of communication?

  10. Alfons

    It seems subvocal speech is quite unpopular with some people?

    I like how MF is talking about acting appropriate in a given situation. Even with such abstract actions as thinking. Or actually explicitly with such abstract actions, and how they can convert into something concrete.

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