Use Your Own Eyes
by William B. MacCracken, M. D. Use Your Own Eyes was first published in 1937.
IN THIS closing chapter, I hope to make plain the meaning of what has been written. It is only a hope, but growing in the years, it has become a faith. There is a significance in that meaning, which has reference to the future of this country. The needless subjection of the eyes of the coming generations to the domination of glass lenses, must have an absolute and malevolent influence on the mentality of any weak-eyed nation.
It has been written, again and again, that the race is losing its virility. Losing it through the artificial and unnatural environment which has developed in this modern civilization. We are told that because we live in air conditioned offices, and steam heated apartments that are not homes, but only places to sleep, and spend our days in purposeless, feverish excitement, we have lost the faculty of adaptation which raised the race as it evolved, and without which it is sinking back from the place it had attained. We are told that we are mechanicists mentally as well as physically.
In the United States the habit of wearing artificial lenses is increasing at such an astonishing rate, that it is fast becoming a remarkable national trait. A young woman from Australia, who came to me because she had heard of the Bates method there, told me that for the last three or four days on the ship, . she was impatient, above every other thought, to get on the street in San Francisco, to see if it was really true that almost everyone wore spectacles. She said she had tried to imagine how the people would look, and that in spite of her preparation, she never-the-less was astonished when she saw the procession of glasses. The shock made her more than ever determined to have the beginning trouble with her own eyes corrected, so she would not be compelled to wear spectacles for the remainder of her life. Such a feeling would have been quite common when I was her age in New York City, in the early eighties. But the environment in our large cities has silenced such a feeling with millions of the people of the United States.
The new psychology has served to obscure whatever consciousness there might have been of the meaning of such a condition, if the change had come over the inhabitants in a few months. The difference, in a moment as it were, would have startled the public mind into an apprehension which would have aroused questions, and questions are dangerous, if you like, but always the incentive to action. There is beginning to be heard, from different quarters, comments on this subject which sound very much like actual questions.
Suppose we try to imagine the questions, and the answers, if it should happen that an epidemic came upon this nation of a similar condition in the legs of the population. Suppose that millions were finding their legs beginning to falter, so that they could not be relied upon—without damage, and without pain or apparent cause. Suppose they sought help, and were told that the cause was only a strain, and the cause of the strain was not apparent, and no cure was possible, and they must all wear braces. Would such a situation be accepted with what a famous Englishman called the docility of the American Public.
Suppose, further, that a famous orthopedist published a book which explained that a strain is an unnatural tension, in the leg muscles, the same as in any other body function, and curable in the same way. Can it be imagined that the public would say: "Never mind, we prefer to put on artificial braces; and besides we think it is a most attractive fashion." There is a difference, certainly, in the two situations, but the analogy is perfect. It is only that it may seem different. A little deliberate thought will demonstrate that the factors involved are the same. It sounds frightful to think of a nation with helpless lame legs. But what of a nation with helpless eyes? Suppose that all the spectacles in the United States were lost over-night? It is no answer to say that it will not happen. Because it will never happen is not a reason for refusing to question why a nation with just the same eyes as other nations, should be putting on spectacles so fast that it seems to be responding to an ambition which has been expressed, that all should be wearing them. Suppose we remember that a book has been in print for sixteen years, following a public knowledge for another sixteen years. Is it then a question as to why the public has decided against the cure for the eye—or is it a question as to why the public does not know the established facts?
From certain sources there is positive and persistent opposition to the spread of this knowledge. It is combated and suppressed. There are living examples of the vital power of this truth in several different countries. The book of Dr. Bates has been in this country and in England and Australia since 1920. There are schools teaching the system in Germany and in England.
Truths that are new generally must keep themselves alive, until time wears a way into the consciousness of a public which thinks that an original man is a fool or a prodigy—and is likely to dismiss him as not a prodigy. When there is added to this inertia, a positive, active, and persistent influence of tremendous interests, any new conception meets an atmosphere in which it is hard to live and develop power. It was into such an environment that the discovery of Dr. Bates was born.
It has lived. Truth always, lives. This truth belongs to the race. It cannot be permanently stifled or suppressed. The people of this country have the right to know the truth. It is still their privilege to make their own decisions. Some day, some way, it will become known, as other great truths have become known. When the people of the United States realize that they can have, and their children can have, the same fine natural eyesight that the mass of the race is enjoying today—who would say that they will not decide to use their own eyes, instead of being slaves, helpless without their pieces of glass?
Dr. Bates published scientific reports of his discoveries in conventional medical journals. discussed them in medical societies. At one annual convention of the American Medical Association, so he has written, he was one of those allowed five minutes to comment on a paper read. The reader of the paper accused Dr. Bates of being a quack—because of the claims he had published and was supporting. The same man had removed him from the staff of a post-graduate medical school in New York City, because Dr. Bates had enabled medical men in the school to discard their glasses, after that specialist had fitted them. His complaint was that nearsightedness could not be cured. Dr. Bates had answered that he could examine the eyes of the doctors under discussion as to their nearsightedness. The complaining specialists only reply was, that if they were not nearsighted at that time, he had made a mistake when he examined them. So many whom I have met have discarded their own glasses, after wearing them for years, because they found they were not nearsighted any longer—I speak of those who never heard of Dr. Bates. The five-minute talk of Dr. Bates interested those specialists of the American Medical Association so much that they insisted upon his talking to them for an hour. The paper of the doctor who had called him a quack took only fifteen minutes.
During more than thirty years of private practice and clinical work, Dr. Bates cured those afflicted with various dysfunctions of vision, removing their glasses permanently, and teaching them how to have normal vision. Many physicians have been interested in the work of Dr. Bates. Patients who were cured are in evidence and the work of Dr. Bates is known all over the world. Although he demonstrated his experiments in the presence of specialists, and his proofs were accepted, no public acknowledgment of his discovery has ever been made. I have often been asked why this is the case. Certainly it is not my part to offer any explanation.
Three years after the death of Dr. Bates, a personal friend, who was a trained newspaper man, persuaded me to submit an article on the subject of this book, to a popular weekly. The reply was a courteous refusal, on the ground that it was "too far from their trail." Later, I submitted the same article to a classical monthly magazine, which publishes both sides of interesting controversial subjects. It was again met with a courteous refusal.
Last spring, a widely read magazine announced a prize competition for unpublished articles of human interest. The intention was to secure articles from those who, thanks to un usual experience or observation or reflection, might well contribute magazine articles having a high standard of lasting interest and significance. Except that it must be the first contributed article from the writer, there were to be no restrictions. A special knowledge of some phase of American life that can be given general importance and appeal; an illuminating human experience; the desire to recognize a fine accomplishment—these were the qualities the judges were to consider in making their decisions. There was to be no fiction. They must be accurate in fact and genuine in feeling. They must be the product of unusual thought or unusual knowledge. They must deal with a subject either not treated before, or presented in a fresh light. They must have a significance and interest as broad as possible. They must combine these qualities in such a way as to produce an article whose value would survive long after the month in which it was printed.
The conditions seemed to me to fit so perfectly the subject discussed in this book, that I submitted an article entitled "The Marvelous Work of Dr. Bates." The article was returned, so I was informed, with especial regret. I was told that my article was one of those which received most serious consideration. In the final selection it was left off the list because, in the opinion of the judges, it either dealt with material covered fairly recently by the magazine, or to which the magazine was already committed; or because in competition with other articles on the same subject, another had slightly the better of it; or because either the subject, or the treatment of it, did not seem quite within the scope of the magazine.
That my article was rejected is of no moment. If some other writer covered the subject in a better manner, that writer will receive my most sincere congratulations, and my gratitude. If the accuracy of my facts was questioned, it would have been a simple matter to verify or disprove them. If, otherwise, all the ten articles selected were considered to be of greater lasting interest and significance, and to have more general importance and appeal for the American public, I believe that most of the readers of this book will share with me an intense curiosity to read every one of the articles when they appear. Until that time, I can only wonder "why".
We all remember that exquisite little poem of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, "The Last Leaf." It was the quaint philosophy of a grand intellect put into a parable. The picture of the old man, with the thin nose, that rested on his chin, and the crook in his back, who had not been welcomed by the new life in which he wandered around as a stranger, impressed that lover of the race, and he put the innermost thoughts of his own heart into those lines that will never grow old.
With his keen insight, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table sensed the melancholy crack in the laugh of the man in the old three-cornered hat; he pictured him when not a better man was found by the crier on his round through the town. Now the Old Timer, who had outlasted all the other leaves upon the tree, was still hanging, an old leaf in a new spring, among fresh flowers. He was in a new world of different things; and now he walks the streets, and he looks at all he meets sad and wan.
Is it a strange fantasy for me to think of the human eye, today, as Oliver Wendell Holmes thought of the neglected man of a by-gone generation, who made the pavement stones resound as he tottered o'er the ground with his cane? The eye itself, is the last leaf upon the tree. It is a stranger in a new generation. Every other part of the body is living in a different world. Every other part is cared for when it is sick. The life, and mechanism, and needs and nurture of every other part of the body have been searched and studied, and are being helped and renewed with a science and an art born of new interest and new hope. But the eye has been deserted to its fate. There are volumes—of literature reporting newly discovered knowledge about almost every other organ of the body; and there are campaigns to protect, and to refresh, and to prolong the life of every other organ and function. But when the function of the eye falters, there is no help offered. Like the old man, it is given a cane. Even when it is quite young, still the faltering eye is given a cane for life. In early life even a little sympathetic interest and care would be sufficient to save it, with all its power; and it could even develop a finer power out of the new knowledge of its functions, as the other organs are being improved in their power by the same modern methods as Dr. Bates used in the treatment of the eye.
If this book succeeds only in arousing the attention of those who are interested in the welfare of children, I will feel that it has fulfilled a purpose sufficient for the effort. They are being wronged when their eyes are made the slaves of glass lenses for life. Sight is a psychic function. Who can say what it means to children when the natural freedom of their eyes is dominated by spectacles in those early formative years?
The subject of this book is not an abstract exposition. It is not an academic discussion of public policies or class interests. It is not offering a theory. The issue is simple and clear, and of the most vital interest. It has been established, during a period of over twenty-five years, that most of those who are wearing spectacles can use their natural eyesight, without any artificial assistance, and with perfect satisfaction. There is a question that concerns a great part of humanity at the moment, and which we hope will not harass us in this country—the question of what price glory? This book is concerned with the price the American people are paying for discarding the natural use of their eyes, so they may have the privilege of wearing spectacles. This book is an effort to interest them sufficiently, if possible, to arouse an inquiry that will disclose and consider the danger which is already a disaster, and threatens to become a catastrophe.
Simply to deny that an eye which is finding some difficulty in seeing, cannot be given any curative assistance—to reply merely that "Bates has been discredited"—is not an answer worthy the medical profession. Digitalis is the best life-saving drug in heart disease. It was found by a young physician, in the days before there were schools of medicine. He thought enough of some folk stories to search out and discover the valuable ingredient in an herb mixture used by an old hag who could help faltering hearts, but refused to tell what she put in her concoctions. Because a strange, obscure gleam was noticed by a research worker in a laboratory, and was not "discredited", the medical profession today has the marvelous advantages of the X-Ray. Quinine was found among the ignorant savages of the Andes Mountains. Because it cured their fever, the medical profession investigated and used it. The vaccination, which prevents the contagion of smallpox, was brought to the attention of Jenner, by the stories of what some ignorant farmers of southern England were doing to render themselves immune. He heard that they cut their skin and inserted some of the discharge from an infection on the udder of a cow, and it was called cowpox. Jenner sent one of his young assistants to investigate. Then he went himself, and when he returned he vaccinated his own family. He did not dismiss such a vital matter without investigation. Pasteur could not be silenced by the stupid incredulity of medical men who would not believe their ears; and out of his discoveries has developed the modern system of protecting the race from infection. It was thirty years before the medical world was finally persuaded by the proofs that Dr. Wagner-Jauregg continually gave them, although during all those years he was curing mental diseases, and other serious conditions, by producing a high fever in the bodies of his patients. The doctors had always believed that fever was a disaster for the body, and the claim of Dr. Wagner-Jauregg had to break down another entrenched conviction.
In the current number of a popular magazine, which is small in size, but large in circulation, and broadminded in conception, there is a report of the story of Dr Charles Henry Duncan, a practicing physician in New York City, who has given the medical profession a new method of curing infectious diseases. The method is called autotherapy, and in curing patients in that way, Dr. Duncan utilizes the inherent resources of the system to protect the body by its own natural method. His treatment is described in standard medical dictionaries. His work has been fully investigated and approved by medical societies, and endorsed over the signatures of many prominent men in the medical profession. He has been recommended by men of standing for a Nobel Prize. Nevertheless, the majority of the medical profession in the United States have never heard of Dr. Duncan or his discovery. Of those who have heard of his work, some have been interested enough to investigate his findings, and have practiced them with success. Other medical then, incredulous, have condemned his theory. The experience of Dr. Duncan, like that of so many other men in the field of medicine, has been similar to that of Dr. Bates. He has met with the same old incredulity, skepticism, controversies, and opposition.
In the press this morning I find an account of a Dr. G. W. Day. of Texas, reporting in The Texas State Journal of Medicine his own successful treatment of several mental diseases, by the simple procedure of producing long continuous sleep—the longest lasting for seventy-eight days, and the average about twenty days. Such treatment may seem to be revolutionary. But such a conception certainly is original and magnificent. But in the final analysis it is a higher degree of ("relaxation", prolonged, and prolonged further and further, until the terrific mental tension has finally been relieved. For a long time, continued treatment with music, and other methods of suggestion, have been used with gratifying results, in the care and cure of diseases of the mind.
The analogy of the experiences recorded above, to the different aspects of the discovery and the work and the experience of Dr. Bates, seems very plain to me. He was met with incredulity, and the resistance which meets any new conception that conflicts with a fixed conviction in the minds of men. There is a similarity between the story of Dr. Bates and the stories above, in the portrayal of the manner in which truth forces itself upon the attention of those who happen to have a mind that is open to its evidence. They all comprise a record of one blessing after another becoming the possession of the race.
An editorial in an official medical journal, commenting upon the eightieth birthday of a leader in the field of psychology, compiles the different aspects of the experience his discoveries met with when he offered them to the medical profession. That editorial states that. The inevitable phases of reaction and consternation always provoked by new discoveries have not yet been passed. The concept of the unconscious has deeply modified the subjective attitude of human beings toward life. Human beings seem instinctively to resent the acknowledgment forced on them by Freud, that even their own personalities are removed from the sovereign influence of their conscious selves, and that they are not even complete masters of their own actions. The discovery of the unconscious has led to a striving to bring the unconscious under the domination of consciousness. The editorial explains that Freud discovered the unconscious mind as an entirely new territory of research.
Referring to Charcot, the greatest authority in neurology of his own time, the editorial points out that he was an empiricist and a clinician in the beat sense (meaning that his conclusions were founded on the symptoms apparent in patients). It states that: His great reverence for facts enabled him to emancipate himself from the current theories and dogmas in medicine, and to recognize the psychologic element in hysterical phenomena. In commenting on the life work of Freud, the editorial points out that the thirty-year period of his isolated work is not remarkable. It reminds the medical profession that the fight for the scientific study of the human body by dissection lasted for centuries, and the unbiased objective study of the human personality must prevail. even over greater emotional obstacles.
In his remark that the inevitable phases of reaction and consternation always provoked by new discoveries have not yet been passed, that editor pictured the situation regarding the discovery of Dr. Bates, and the reasons why his wonderful gift to mankind is not yet being used to meet the necessities of the multitude asking for help for its eyes, and being offered, instead, only the crutch of a pair of spectacles. That erudite editorial pictures frankly the causes which prevented the benefits of the work of Dr. Freud from being used by physicians for thirty years. The same reasons are preventing the benefits of thirty years. The unconscious mind, the editorial explains, is still an unexplored region. Like the biologist who recently wrote that the medical profession has not yet begun to study the human mind, the writer tells the same men that they have not yet realized how dependent they are themselves, as well as their patients, upon the mechanism that is taking care of them—the mechanism called the unconscious mind. The doctor, who knows that sight is a psychic function, and that we see in our brain, makes no effort to influence the visual center, which controls the mechanism of vision.
The findings of Harvey and Lister and Pasteur and Charcot and Freud, were challenged; but they were investigated, and now they belong to humanity. The finding of Dr. Bates are as important as any other discovery, but they have never been investigated, nor weighed, nor tested. They are simply ignored. And will this always be so? I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I am not afraid to hazard a challenge that in due time the discovery of Dr. Bates will, likewise, come into its own. The others all had to wait until their time came. It is not yet the thirty years that Freud had to wait, and Wagner-Jauregg. The decision as to the value of the method of Dr. Bates will come from the men whose life work is the same as that of Dr. Bates. Instead of delivering the troubled eyes over to the men who grind the glass lenses, the physicians of tomorrow will treat them as the physicians of today have already learned to treat and correct the disorders of the other functions of the body.
"In Flanders Field the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; Take up our quarrel with the foe. To you from failing hands we throw the torch; Be yours to hold it high."
As surely as any soldier ever died on the field, Dr. Bates gave his life for a cause, battling against fate, during many years of magnificent struggle, when the unending disappointment finally broke in hopeless despair. His torch is still burning. There will come some other battler, who is fit, and will hold it high until the people who are sitting in darkness have seen its great light.
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