It's Only Natural
Sight Without Glasses
Many methods have been suggested over the years to treat vision and to correct refractory errors without the use of glasses. Undoubtedly the most extensive and well known work in this field was that done by the ophthalmologist W. H. Bates. In 1920, Dr. Bates published The Cure of Imperfect Sight by Treatment Without Glasses, (Bates, NV. H.: The Cure of Imperfect Sight by Treatment Without Glasses. New York. Central Fixation Publishing Co.. 1920.) a text now extremely rare. Many other more easily obtainable texts using his methods have been written and can be recommended, but the whole extent of his work can't be adequately understood without some knowledge of his original theories as delineated in his original book.
The difference between orthodox ophthalmic theory and the Bates theory is shown in Figure 13. Orthodox theory holds that accommodation (focusing) of the eye is accomplished only by relaxation of the ciliary muscle, which enables the lens to assume a variety of shapes and focal lengths, thereby focusing on objects both far and near. In the Bates theory, the lens remains fairly constant in shape, but the eyeball changes its position, owing to action of the various extrinsic muscles of the eyeball.
In developing his theories, Bates was not a closet scientist; he had a full active practice and had examined tens of thousands of eyes during his career. In his book, he details the results of hundreds of thousands of experiments he made, first in an effort to prove the orthodox accepted theory of eye accommodation, which he could not prove, and then to show validation of his own theory.
Bates' methods of photographing the eyes were unique with him and he was doing work seventy-five years ago that hasn't yet been adequately duplicated by modern scientific investigators. Those interested in the scientific explanation of these methods are recommended to obtain his book, though it is long out of print; it possibly could be obtained in some of the larger used book stores.
Bates taught that the cause of practically all refractory eye problems-those corrected by the fitting of eyeglasses-was due to eyestrain. This was particularly true in younger persons, and he also taught that the best treatment of these errors was by relaxation and the elimination of strain rather than by merely placing a positive or negative lens in front of the eye so that the patient could see more clearly despite his strain.
Personally, I believe that both the orthodox and Bates theories of accommodation may function simultaneously in ocular disorders. I see no contradiction in the conclusion that certain amounts of accommodation may be accomplished by a change in the convexity of the lens, whose elasticity decreases as the individual grows older, helping account for the hyperopic eye of the elderly, while strain that alters the shape of the eyeball could account for many refractory defects, especially in younger individuals, that can be successfully corrected by the Bates method.
The Bates method of treatment is very effective in many cases, a fact that I can attest to personally. All during high school, I needed and wore eyeglasses for myopia. During the end of my senior year, I read my first book by a disciple of Bates, and following the methods suggested, I soon was able to rid myself of eyeglasses. For almost thirty years I had no need for glasses. I my mid forties the typical hardening of the lens began and so now I need glasses for reading but my far vision which was corrected by the Bates method is still good. Whether the Bates theory is completely accurate, I can't say with certainty. But his treatment methods are effective, and I believe much good would be accomplished if his methods of eye care could be taught in hygiene classes in every high school in our nation.
The Bates Theory
Not only did Bates hold views contradictory to those of orthodox ophthalmology about the process of accommodation, many of his other findings are in direct opposition to their recommendations. Bates believed (and my own experience has verified it) that the refractive ability of the eye varies from day to day. Thus, one day, a person may see very well, whereas the next day his eye is less able to accommodate.
If we try to fit glasses on such a person, we can fit them only to the eye state at the time of the fitting. When the eye changes, the glasses can't and they are thus inappropriate. The eye must therefore adjust to the lens; when it must do so, it is not free to operate as a natural agent and is weakened to that extent.
Bates has this to say on the subject: "As refractive abnormalities are constantly changing, not only from day to day and from hour to hour, but from minute to minute, even under the influence of Ataprin (A drug to dilate the pupil for an eye examination), the accurate fitting of glasses is of course impossible. In some cases, these fluctuations are so extreme or the patient so unresponsive to mental suggestion, that no relief whatever is obtained from correcting lenses, which necessarily become under such circumstances, an added discomfort. At their best, it cannot be maintained that glasses are anything more than a very unsatisfactory substitute for normal vision."
I don't want to imply that we ask our patients to throw away their glasses. I want only to show that corrective glasses aren't necessarily the ideal way of correcting all refractory problems and that another method may often prove quite effective. Even the patient who isn't able to completely eliminate his glasses usually is able to use progressively weaker lenses, whereas each change of lens previously had required a stronger prescription, signifying a weaker eye mechanism.
Bates surmised that most refractory eye problems are caused by the strain to see. He believed that the relaxed eye made proper accommodation quite readily, but that under the various strains put on civilized man, the eye is one of the first organs to react adversely to these pressures and that this is the major cause of our refractory problems.
He also stated that the eyes aren't necessarily rested by sleep-that during sleep one could even stare with the eyes closed and that relaxation must be taught. He also believed that eyes aren't necessarily tired by use but by the strain that often accompanies such use. One of his fundamental theories was that the act of seeing is a passive act-that is, to see requires no active participation on our part. In fact, he felt any attempt to see produces eyestrain automatically. This strain may take many forms, resulting in many abnormal conditions. Circulation to the eyes is disturbed by this strain, and normal circulation can only be restored by proper mental control of this eyestrain. He was certain that eyestrain could not only produce errors of refraction, but also, through abnormal inhibition of the proper circulation, other disorders such as cataracts and glaucoma. (We have no knowledge of any evidence he presented to prove this connection, however.)
In complete contradiction to most authorities, Bates taught that the usual do's and don'ts of eye care aren't based on observed fact. He didn't think that bright lights are necessarily harmful to the eye; rather he believed that the eye had the necessary methods of accommodation to correct for these and that light is to a degree the life blood of the eye. In fact, as a part of his treatment, he used to suggest a certain amount of sun gazing, in which the patient would sway back and forth looking at the sun with his eyes closed, and then occasionally open the eyes for a fraction of a second to allow the full light of the sun to penetrate to the retina. Admittedly, this must be done only momentarily or the retina can be damaged, but when used in moderation it has helped improve eyesight in many.
Bates held that darkness is the biggest danger to the eyes, though he did think that sudden contrasts of light-a change from light to dark or from dark to light-are in themselves beneficial. In fact, Bates recommended that his patients go to the movies in the early days of the so-called "flickers," for he believed the flickering image on the screen was actually an exercise for the eye and. if properly observed, following the methods I describe on central fixation, would prove of great benefit. If Bates were alive today it would be interesting to know what he would have to say about television and computer screens. I would not be surprised to find that he might not feel that they are beneficial for long periods of viewing.
Another accepted orthodox dictum not upheld by Bates' investigations was the theory that fine print and dim light are bad for the eyes. In his book, Bates says, "On the contrary, the reading of fine print, when it can be done without discomfort has invariably proven to be beneficial and the dimmer the light in which it can be read and closer to the eyes that it can be held, the greater the benefit. By this means severe pain in the eyes has been relieved in a few minutes and even instantly. The reason is that fine print cannot be read in a dim light and close to the eyes unless the eyes are relaxed, whereas large print can be read in good light and at ordinary reading distance although the eyes may be under strain. When fine print can be read under adverse conditions, the reading of ordinary print under ordinary conditions is vastly improved."
To lay at rest another accepted theory, he had this to say about reading in moving vehicles: "Persons who wish to preserve their eyesight are equally warned not to read in moving vehicles, but since under modern conditions of life, many persons have to spend a large part of their time in moving vehicles and many of them have no other time to read, it is useless to expect that they will ever discontinue the practice. Fortunately the theory of its injuriousness is not borne out by the facts. If the object regarded is moved more or less rapidly, strain and lowered vision are at first always produced, but this is always temporary and ultimately the vision is improved by the practice."
To finish his list of do's where other people have listed don'ts, Bates has this to say about reading in bed: "There is probably no visual habit against which we have been more persistently warned than that of reading in a recumbent position. Many plausible reasons have been deduced for its supposed injuriousness, but so delightful is the practice that probably few have ever been deterred from it by fear of the consequences. It is gratifying to be able to state therefore that I have found these consequences to be beneficial rather than injurious. As in the case of the use of the eye under other difficult conditions, it is a good thing to be able to read lying down, the ability to do it improves with practice. In an upright position with good light coming over the left shoulder, one can read with eyes under a considerable degree of strain, but in a recumbent position with the light and the angle of the page to the eye unfavorable, one cannot read unless one relaxes. Anyone who can read lying down without discomfort is not likely to have any difficulty in reading under ordinary conditions."
At the end of his chapter on reading, Bates presents in summary his theories about reading under difficult conditions, and I think we can do no better than to again quote the original: "The fact is, that vision under difficult conditions is good mental training. The mind may be disturbed at first by the unfavorable environment, but after it has become accustomed to such environment, the mental control and consequently the eyesight are improved. To advise against using the eyes under unfavorable conditions is like telling a person who has been in bed for a few weeks and finds it difficult to walk to refrain from such exercise. Of course discretion must be used in both cases. The convalescent must not at once try to run the marathon, nor must the person with defective vision attempt, without some preparation, to outstare the sun at noonday. But just as the invalid may gradually increase his strength until the marathon has no terrors for him, so may the eye with defective sight be educated until all the rules with which we have too long allowed ourselves to be harassed, in the name of eye hygiene, may be disregarded. Not only with safety, but with benefit."
The purpose of this chapter is not to present the methods of the Bates eye treatment in a form capable of being used for complete correction of eye difficulties, but merely to acquaint the reader with the basic method and some of the lesser known theories of Bates. If you are interested in helping yourself to improved vision, I can highly recommend that you speak to one of our healing center physicians about your desire.
There are a few cornerstones of Bates' work, however, with which you should be familiar and that can help every one to better eye health and functioning.
Fundamentals of Bates Technique-Central Fixation
The basic fundamental of all Bates treatment is to get rid of mental strain, which affects the eyes. This first effort to accomplish this should be directed toward understanding and applying central fixation.
Bates taught that the eye sees accurately only with a very small amount of the retina. This part, known as the macular area, is a small Depression
in the retina in which large numbers of eye elements are compacted. This area is located on the central axis of the lens and it is at this point only that we see in perfect focus. We have vision from the rest of the retina, but this vision is out of focus and if we try to focus on objects with the periphery of the retina, strain is automatically produced and our vision is adversely affected. Bates stated that proper vision is produced by rapidly moving this macular area to investigate any object we wish to see. Because accurate vision is only possible at this small macular area, by moving the eyeball this spot can be made to fall over the various parts of the object we are investigating. In summing up central fixation, Bates said, "The staring eye is a straining eye. The normal eye is almost never at rest, but is constantly moving and shifting in its effort to properly visualize whatever we wish to see."
As an aid to relaxation, Bates recommended palming (Fig. 14). The idea was to exclude as much light as possible from the eyes without them being shut. Palming was suggested whenever the patient felt pain or discomfort from the eyes or whenever eyestrain could be sensed. As a part of the palming technique, Bates also recommended that the patient try to visualize black. He believed that by using the memory to envision the color black in front of the eyes, relaxation was produced. He documented many cases in which long-term eye difficulties were corrected almost instantly when the patient was finally able to visualize black.
Bates considered rapid eye movement such a natural part of eye health that he designed the technique known as shifting to keep the eye in motion even when reading. During reading you should keep he eye moving from word to word and make no attempt to visualize the entire sentence or paragraph in one gulp[. Normal shifting is almost completely inconspicuous, because it is incredibly rapid and the inability to shift properly produces staring- according to Bates, the first step on the road to refractory problems.
The Long Swing
One of his most satisfactory therapeutic exercises for the eyes is known as the universal or long, swing. It is also sometimes called the elephant swing (Fig. 15). One places the feet about eighteen inches
apart and the hands are dropped loosely to the sides. The body is turned at the waist as far to one side as it will go and then slowly back to the other side as far as it will go. The arms are allowed to swing freely during this rotation.
The eyes are at first shut, then gradually opened as the exercise progresses. No effort should be made to see any object. Every attempt should be made to relax the eyes and facial muscles during the long swing. As this procedure is continued, you will become so relaxed that you feel like sleeping for days. If you can't obtain this degree of relaxation at first, continue the practice until such a state is obtained.
Many other treatment specifics are used in the Bates method, but if your chosen text includes the foregoing, it is undoubtedly authentic.
One of the difficulties with the Bates method, as with so many other natural treatments, is that it takes time and patient cooperation for best results. Fortunately, such improvement, once obtained, can be fairly easily maintained if the patient trains himself to follow certain simple procedures.
As the patient perseveres with the Bates therapy, he will reach a point at which he can readily detect strain occurring within his ocular apparatus. He must train himself, as he senses this strain, to immediately produce an automatic counter-relaxing action that will correct this build-up.
Although I did my own personal Bates therapy nearly fifty years ago and have not repeated it since, by following this tactic I've been able to keep my eyes free of the myopia I had at that time. In talking to people, there may be times when for a second or two I close my eyes to relax them. I have trained my own protective apparatus in such a way that whenever my eyes feel dry from staring, or strain, they automatically shut and remain shut until this strain passes. This period rarely lasts longer than a few seconds. It has now become so automatic that I am unaware of its action unless it is brought to my attention. After a patient finishes the Bates therapy at our Centers, we take great pains to teach him this type of relaxation. If he learns this method well, his condition will remain stable with little additional effort.
To achieve this relaxation, it isn't sufficient alone to close the eyes, for one can continue to stare after the eyes are closed. All the muscles surrounding the eyes must relax. In our Centers, we teach the patient to relax practically all his face muscles, including those of the lower jaw. Where this is done, not only are the eyes rested, but also many headaches are prevented because tension of the face and neck muscles may cause many of these ailments.
If the Bates method is as useful and practical as I have led you to believe, why isn't it in more general use? Why don't many of the good and honest ophthalmologists investigate and use it if it's of value? Although I can't speak for others, I can give a small insight into the working of medical authority. To this end, I submit the last two paragraphs of Bates' book, which I think is self-explanatory:
"Between 1886 and 1891 I was a lecturer at the postgraduate hospital and medical school. The head of the institution was Dr. D. B. St. John Rusa. He was the author of many books and was honored and respected by the whole medical profession. At the school they had got the habit of putting glasses on the nearsighted doctors and I had got the habit of curing them without glasses. It was naturally annoying to a man who had put glasses on a student to have him appear at lectures without them and say that Dr. Bates had cured him. Dr. Rusa found it particularly annoying and the trouble reached a climax one evening at the annual banquet of the faculty when in the presence of 150 doctors, he suddenly poured out the vile of his wrath upon my head.
"He said that I was injuring the reputation of the postgraduate by claiming to cure myopia. Everyone knew that Donders said it was incurable. And I had no right to claim that I knew more than Donders. I reminded him that some of the men I had cured had been fitted with glasses by himself. He replied that if he had said they had myopia, he had made a mistake. I suggested further investigation. 'Fit some more doctors with glasses for myopia,' I said, 'And I will cure them. 'It is easy for you to examine them afterward and see if the cure is genuine.' This method did not appeal to him, however, he repeated that it was impossible to cure myopia and to prove that it was impossible, he expelled me from the postgraduate, even the privilege of resignation being denied me.
"The fact is that except in rare cases, man is not a reasoning being. He is dominated by authority and when facts are not in accord with the view imposed by authority, so much the worse for the facts. They may and indeed must win in the long run, but in the meantime the world gropes needlessly in the darkness and endures much suffering that might have been avoided."
Postscript: Of late a new eye operation called Radial Keratotomy is gaining some prominence. In this operation, that is designed to correct myopia, incisions are made in the lens of the eye and this is supposed to allow the eye to then focus properly on the retina. Since I have not treated any patients who have had this operation I cannot comment on its effectiveness, though I'm certain that the good Dr. Bates would turn over in his grave if he knew that they were attempting to us surgery to correct something that he was curing one-hundred years ago with some simple non-invasive methods.