There is a great new American disease (dis ease). The malady is accumulating in victims so fast that already they have grown into a vast procession. If one tries to adopt a simile for the picture, one may think of it as built upon the model of the torrent of children that thronged after the Pied Piper of Hamlin.
This is not a joke. It is a challenge.
The Pied Piper led that procession of young spirits into the open sunlight. To fetter the eyes of young children with a pair of artificial lenses is to rob them of the birthright of freedom to use their eyes without that unnatural interference.
The condition under consideration is not a disease, in the common understanding of the meaning of that word. In the great majority of those so afflicted, there is no change in tissue structure. There is no infirmity, as that word is properly understood. The specific mechanism which is involved, the mechanism of vision, has retained all of its inherent power. But we are told, nevertheless, that the condition is incurable.
Notwithstanding that assertion, multitudes are in evidence who have suffered disturbances of normal vision, of the several different types, and have experienced the spontaneous recovery of normal function.
This national malady is identified under the ambiguous, strangely remarkable designation of "eyestrain". It is accepted casually, with a preposterous, absent-minded attitude of "O. K.", which is equivalent to a welcome. The habit, custom, performance itself, might fairly be classified with the fashion dictum "What is being done".
This might all provoke a smile, just as some other fashions do, if it were not for the unconsidered consequences of such a national obsession. It is another illustration of the light-hearted mental attitude which is so aptly expressed in the quip: "I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way".
The popular acceptance with which this strange propaganda has been received is some measure of the success of the publicity announced campaign to make every one in the United States what is called "eyeconscious". "Your eye is your most precious possession, take good care of it" Do that, you are directed, by ignoring the endowed marvelous power of accommodation (focus) which the mechanism of vision has. Introduce an outside interference, we are told, a pair of glass lenses.
Thus we are to compel the mechanism which has been evolving since life began, to live in an artificial manner, obliged to work with the altered light rays that are allowed it by the ground glass of the spectacles.
What is this "eyestrain"? Who ever asks what that word means? Try to find that word in the technical exposition of the text books. In the medical dictionary, strain is defined: "To overexercise: To use in an extreme and harmful degree." Eyestrain is defined as: "A weariness of the eye from overuse or from uncorrected defect in focus of the eye."
In any other field of the science and art of the practice of medicine, there would be an endeavor to prevent said "overuse", whatever that vague term might mean, and to correct the "uncorrected defect in focus".
The prevailing method of treatment offers no cure. The defect remains. Further, the defect progressively increases in degree. We are told that it is expected so to do,
It is explained that those eyes, with those glasses, will become weaker, even in healthy children and young people. The glass lenses are periodically made stronger. One is warned to report regularly. It is a positive defeatist program.
For many years it has been known publicly, and demonstrated plentifully, in the United States and in other countries, that in most of these cases of abnormal vision it is possible to secure deliberately the recovery of normal vision, even as so frequently it recovers spontaneously.
This is being accomplished, methodically, by the use of a series of techniques, practices, which are designed to influence, and to secure the co-operation of, the central control in the brain, which has charge of the whole mechanism of vision.
This method, or system, is scientific, and simple, and practicable. The underlying principles are exactly similar to those of practices in common use by medical men. Those principles are in constant successful use for the cure of analogous abnormal functioning of other units of mechanism in the human system. This specific method is in accord with the established findings and teachings of the science and art of the practice of medicine.
The correct answer to this controversial medical problem was discovered by a genius named William H. Bates, M. D. of New York City. He was an ophthalmologist of perfectly ethical standing in the medical societies. He was a member on the staffs of different hospitals. His writings were accepted by the medical journals. He was called upon to discuss the claims he expounded, in the medical societies, and in annual medical conventions.
There was controversy, of course. He had to contend with the same "static" that confronts every pioneer scientist.
The experience of Dr. Bates was quite of a kind, for instance, to that of Columbus. His genius realized that the world must be round. He sailed around it. There were many obvious facts to support his explanation. But the "wise men" simply ignored those truths and put him in jail.
Certainly there were those among the colleagues of Dr. Bates who frankly accepted the truths that he presented. But his claims were never investigated. Generally his demonstrations were ignored. Instead, the replies he received in the controversy were trite reminders of the unsupported opinion of medical men long dead.
That need not seem strange. There are many records in the history of the life and growth of the medical profession, where "The moving finger" wrote in vain discovered truths that were infinitely more necessary than this truth is to the life of the race. There have been many findings, vital in the tragic battle for life and health, which also have been made, sometimes for many years, to stand and wait.
Surely millions of young men would gladly discard spectacles, if only they had it forced into a conviction in their minds that a little earnest endeavor on their part would correct their abnormal vision to normal satisfactory sight permanently.
With women the considerations are somewhat different. As women, they are learning, in many aspects now being presented, that there are vital interests involved in those frameworks on their faces.
The heart interest of this whole subject is the case for the helpless children. Perhaps we need not wonder that most parents do not wonder why no answer is being given, or no protest is being offered, by the medical profession, to those few members of it who are babbling, commercially, that many children, as young as one year old, should have their developing mechanism of vision interfered with for life by the restriction of glass lenses.
It is timely here perhaps for me to say that I know this subject from the inside as well as from the outside. I have been over that trail myself, and know the road.
For thirty years I wore spectacles. It began with a psychic blindness lasting an hour, from a mental shock when all but drowned. There was inaugurated then a continuing astigmatism. Through the years there developed a growing myopia. My lenses were satisfactory, generally for periods of years. They were renewed when my eyes finally rebelled and demanded a new pair. But there were occasions, nevertheless, without any apparent exciting cause, when my astigmatism indulged in most unpleasant outbursts, lasting perhaps an hour, perchance a day or two.
One day, by merest chance, I read a casual reference to the method of Dr. Bates. I found his book PERFECT SIGHT WITHOUT GLASSES. It was most convincing. It was not hard, nor did it take long, for me to discard my glasses. That was over twenty years ago and I have never considered resuming them, and my vision is very satisfactory.
It will be helpful, I believe, to those who may be interested in this book, to submit here a brief resume of the background to the claims Dr. Bates made for the system he developed.
In the private and clinical practice of an opthalmologist, in New York City, he was impressed with the obvious discrepancies apparent in the explanations offered for the different types of abnormal vision.
That was the beginning of a bitter controversy. He began a search for the real explanation, and the cause of the abnormal functioning which was being allowed pass unchallenged, with an interpretation that obviously could not be true. He was not discouraged by the disapproval of his years of successful treatment. Time has amply demonstrated the truth of what he proclaimed. No attempt has ever been made to prove that his story was not true.
It would be interesting surely, to know something of the personal experience of this genius, in his years of battle for such a great cause.
It was no chance discovery of some secret that was received presently with acclaim. But he was a true scientist. He kept his hand on the plow, and nothing could make him turn back.
In all that I have read of his writings he maintained consistently the objective attitude of a scientific research worker. Only once the record required, and he tersely reported, how it happened, in a simple way, that the secret he sought was revealed to him in a single minute.
His own remarkable affliction was diagnosed as presbyopia, the eye of old age. But the strange difficulty he did have was that when he wanted to see close up, his eyes might persist in focusing at a distance; and when he wanted to see at a distance, probably they would refuse to change from a focus close up. These demonstrations proved that he did not have presbyopia.
Working alone for months, as he reported, because none of his colleagues in eye work had any sympathy with his new ideas, Dr. Bates was being helped by a clergyman who learned to be of assistance. He knew that he must cure his own eyes to prove his revolutionary claims.
One day he was looking at a picture of the Rock of Gibraltar. He noted some black spots on the face of the rock. He imagined that these spots were the openings of caves, and that there were figures of men moving in them. But the retinoscope showed that at the moment his eyes were focused at the reading distance—not suitable for his distance from the picture.
Then he looked at the picture from the correct reading distance, still imagining that the spots were caves with people in them. The retinoscope showed then, that his eyes were accommodating, that is, focused correctly for close-up vision, and he was able, at the moment, to read the close-up lettering under the picture.
He realized at once that the faulty functioning of his eyes had been cured, temporarily, by the use of his imagination.
He demonstrated after that how it was possible for him to secure normal accommodation by the specific use of his deliberate imagination, practiced in different techniques which he devised. That was the beginning of a tedious course of endeavor before he secured, permanently, very good normal vision.
If one is inclined to question the consistency of this explanation of Dr. Bates, one has only to remember that, working independently, Emile Cou6 of France, by a proceeding exactly similar, cured multitudes suffering from afflictions quite analagous, after the efforts of other medical men had failed.
Coúe had a high ethical standing in his own field. He was a psychologist who took his laboratory findings out into the world, and proved the value of them, just as Dr. Bates proved his claim in the same way.
There is much in medical literature which supports the interpretation that Dr. Bates offered for his findings, and that he sustained, during many years of successful demonstration of their practical value, before he died in 1931.
Gradually, in the years, the seeds which were planted by Dr. Bates have been bearing fruit. Like the sower in the parable, his work found much ground that was barren. But in these recent present days there is being gathered a most remarkable harvest, which he would have considered "even an hundred fold".
Not to tire the reader with a long recital of the many presentations now in evidence of a new interest in this vital subject, it may be sufficient here to report that: the military authorities of the United States have already inaugurated a tremendous specific program, in an undertaking to accomplish a satisfactory improvement in the vision of enlisted men who need it in the special work for which they are detailed.
Several stations have been established, in different states, where men are being trained to go out as instructors to teach enlisted men until their vision has been corrected to a good normal. That normal can be a vision much superior to the degree which is a common general average..
Any method being used is founded, certainly, on the principles of the method of Dr. Bates, which is founded on the laws of psychology and physiology, as involved in the mechanism of vision.
In 'losing this first chapter, permit me to offer, as a foundation of your own faith and confidence, the reminder that seeing is not an "art".
The human mechanism of vision is an endowment. It was given to you at birth. You did not educate it. You cannot re-educate it. Multitudes have recovered their normal vision in a moment, by an unconscious mental reaction. I have watched a number recover it during one hour, by obeying the simple directions given by Dr. Bates. Those cures were accomplished by the visual centers in the mind.
It will be my endeavor throughout the book to impress; the reader with the great importance of continually remind. ing the mind that the endeavor is not to acquire an art. Success depends on the degree in which one is dominated by the idea that the defect in vision is caused by a habit, acquired unconsciously, of interfering with the normal function of the mechanism of vision.
That habit can be recovered from only by the specific co-operation of the mechanism itself. A conscious voluntary endeavor to rely on the visual centers to respond to such a respectful understanding is the foundation of the practices of the method.
This statement is supported by accepted findings recorded in the standard books. It is vdry simple. But it will be of little value to the beginner until it has been impressed, by earnest, voluntary, continued attention, in that way sending a message to the part of the mind which ú called the engineer, the factor that gives the orders to all the units of mechanism in the system. That factor, like the engineer on the train, sometimes illustrates the comment of the philosopher who said: "To err is human."
We must establish a conscious friendship, born of knowledge, with that part of the mind which is designated as the center of vision.
That sentence is very simple. But it involves the arousing of some serious thought. But what is thought? Who knows? "How many think they think, who never do." Personally, I am guilty. In later years I often remind myself that, being of the race, I am constantly dominated by my own unconscious " actions".
Such mental functioning is illustrated by the reply of the co-ed who defended herself against the charge that she had allowed him to kiss her, by countering with the rebuttal that "Yes, but he thought that I thought that he thought I was asleep".
To establish a friendship with our center of vision is to become acquainted, by a deliberate endeavor, with ' stranger in the house". The central control in the mind, which dominates our mechanism of vision, is a factor most of us have never been conscious of. What about yourself?