By Thomas Quackenbush
Trade paperback book
708 pages, 8.50 x 11.00″
In Relearning to See, the most thorough and technical descriptions yet of Bates Method of natural vision improvement, West Coast vision educator Thomas R. Quackenbush showed how relearning relaxed, correct vision habits and skills (“sketch, breathe, and blink”) could loosen the rigidity of head, eye and neck muscles that results in blur. For over eighty years Bates’ theories and methods have contradicted the prevailing opinion of ophthalmologists who assume that aging and deteriorating eyesight is inevitable.
In his new work, Quackenbush reprints the entire publishing run of Better Eyesight, the magazine Dr. William H. Bates (1860-1931) published in New York City monthly from July 1919 to June 1930. The Bates Method reached the heartland of America and a significant international audiences through these articles, which describe how the method worked with adults and children, gave “stories from the clinic” each month, and shared the method as it was developing. Artists, teachers, army officers, house wives, older people, parents, and children with vision problems wrote about their experiences with the Bates Method and giving up their glasses. Major eye conditions (myopia, astigmatism, farsightedness, presbyopia, amblyopia, strabismus, cataract, glaucoma, blindness) were discussed by Bates, other ophthalmologists, the medical community, and readers.
The significance of this literature is both historical and immediate. For the first time, the connection between eyestrain to shoulder and neck pain, headaches, and other muscular tension is discussed. Bates explores technical concepts in each issue – including, relaxation, centralization, movement, accommodation (focusing), how light is taken a giant step into surgery, with refractive corneal laser surgeries and other artificial means of eyesight “correction.” From a Batesian point of view, these are harmful and risky.
A worthy companion to Relearning to See, the Better Eyesight magazine articles of the ‘20s are a work of prodigious historical scholarship on Quackenbush’s part. They show the development of an important educational system which flourishes today, provoking profound questions about vision, hereditary, and current treatment of vision by modern medicine.