George Walford: The Road to Braziers

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Harold Walsby, originator of the theory now known as systematic ideology, included among his many interests the adult education carried on at Braziers – officially Braziers Park Integrative School of Social Research. He lived there for a time, and a sketch he made of the main building appears as a heading to this article. Braziers issues occasional Research Communications and the latest of these, Number 13, concentrates on the activities and interests of Norman Glaister, by profession a psychiatrist, the founder of the institution. (Among other contributions, he provided the premises, placing them in the hands of trustees before his death). Written (except for the Editorial) by Glynn Faithfull BA PhD, Convener of Studies at Braziers, it includes “Memories of Norman Glaister” and “Minds in Community: a Report and a Project,” a paper presented at Oxford, in July 1991, at an International Conference on Residential Adult Education.

Glynn Faithfull, then aged 12, first met Glaister in 1924, when he was helping to run The Order of Woodcraft Chivalry (one of the alternatives which the reformers offered in place of militaristic and more strongly patriotic organisations like the Boy Scouts and the Boys’ Brigade).

During a period of severe personal difficulty in 1919 Glaister encountered, by chance, Wilfred Trotter’s Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War, and this provided a basis of ideas for his future activities, the founding of Braziers in 1950 among them. Connected with the Independent Labour Party and Sir Richard Acland’s Commonwealth Party (which provided organisation for socialists while the Labour Party was tied up in the coalition government of the Second World War) Glaister based his sociological thinking on a distinction between ‘resistives’ and ‘sensitives.’ Glaister’s association with the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry ended in the 1930s, with an “outbreak of schismatic processes”; the divisiveness of the eidodynamics, even the moderate ones, is neither a new development nor restricted to directly political activities.

“Minds in Community,” reporting on the methods and objectives of Braziers, shows it intensely concerned with integration of individual people into a group. It speaks of “ideas-sharing,” “group-mind factors,” “the educational importance of this collective subliminal factor,” of enhancing “communication and understanding in the mind of the group or the group of minds” and suggests that “holism,” a term hardly known when Braziers began, expresses the idea. Braziers includes “integrative” in its official title, and the Statement of Aims declares: “we are especially concerned with devising the conditions in which… a group of unlike minds may sufficiently improve their internal and external communications, so that they will find themselves functioning as an harmonious whole… ” This stress – not, be it noted, on the presence of wholeness but on a need for wholeness – locates the governing ideology just on the eidodynamic side of centre, at the point where independent thinking first takes over from collective, producing a feeling that something has been lost and an effort to recapture it, but in a form that will afford scope also for the new activity. Unlike the eidostatic individuals, expected to merge themselves in the political collectivity, these new ones are to form a collectivity by and through their individual mentation. After forty years of activity Braziers continues to show that the approach has a great deal to contribute, both to the personal devel opment of individual people and to the social enterprise.

Braziers Park School of Integrative Social Research, [address]

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PYRAMIDOLOGY: When trying to envisage the structure formed by the major ideologies the first figure to come to mind is almost invariably a stepped pyramid, in which vertical position represents degree of ideological development and horizontal extension the numerical size of the group at that level. With equal regularity this provokes objection, on the ground that it implies a claim to superiority both unjustifiable and morally objectionable.

But the whole purpose and function of a pyramid lies in its base, the upper levels forming little more than an impressive way of protecting the contents.

from Ideological Commentary 55, Spring 1992.