Exercises For The Eye
( Originally Published 1907 )
IT IS estimated that the human eye is capable of distinguishing 100,000 different colors, or hues, and twenty shades or tints of each hue, making a total of 2,000,000 color sensations which may be discriminated. If we considered the infinite variations in the color of earth, of plants and their blossoms, of clouds, in fact of all natural objects, such an estimate as this hardly seems excessive."— Dr. Harold Wilson.
THEORY OF THIS CHAPTER
The whole mind in the eye;
Epictetus said: " Did God give the eyes for nothing? And was it for nothing that He mingled in them a spirit of such might and cunning as to reach a long way off and receive the impression of visible forms a messenger so swift and faithful? Was it for nothing that He gave the intervening air such efficacy, and made it elastic, so that being, in a manner strained, our vision should traverse it? Was it for nothing that He made Light, without which there were no benefit of any other thing? "
The eye exists for the supreme power of Will.
Eye, ether, light, are ministers to the soul. The eye may be brightened in its gaze by energetic summonsing of consciousness. Emotions of joy, fear, hate, love, desire, aversion, illustrate this deepening influence of energy within. These emotions may be simulated, as on the stage, at the imperious call of Will. If so, one may acquire a keen eye, without the assistance of these feelings, by sheer and persistent resolution.
The present chapter is to deal with the eye. It may, nevertheless, be here said that it partakes of a law which obtains with all the organs of sense: "A process set up anywhere in the centres reverberates every-where, and in some way or other affects the organism throughout."
Effort at Will-growth by means of exercise of the senses will bring this law into action. Each particular variety of practice will more or less affect the whole man that is, the central Will.
Vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch depend upon certain stimulations from without as mechanical (touch), molecular (taste and smell), physical (sight, hearing), muscular (muscle sense), vital (sense of life).
But at times the required stimulation may arise within the nervous system. Examples: In referring to certain hallucinations, a Boston physician said, " The cerebral processes by which vision is produced may not only be started in the brain itself, but when so started, they are identical with those set going by an objective stimulus in the ordinary way."
Professor Sully says : "A man who has lost his sight may be able to. picture visible objects. The brain is now able to act independently of external stimulation, having acquired a disposition so to act through previous exercises under external stimulation." But it could not picture objects it had never seen.
Two remarks may now be made :
The Will has power to concentrate energy upon a given point in the organism. " By fixing the attention upon certain parts of the body the blood may be directed to these parts." A strong attention directed to the eye enriches its various elements. " In looking attentively at anything, the various ganglia in which the optic nerve is rooted are richly supplied with blood, and the end organs of vision and the eye muscles are vigorously innervated."
Similarly attention increases the supply of nervous force at the point where Will is focused.
Vision is intensified by attention, which induces a degree of muscular effort:— physical energy from within directed to appropriate muscles. " In all close attention there is a feeling of tension or strain which appears to indicate muscular effort. As Fechner says, in looking steadfastly this feeling is referred to the eye ; in listening closely, to the ear ; in trying to ` think' or recollect, to the head or brain."
" Thus it is presumable that when we attend to a visible object a stream of (nerve-) energy flows down-ward from the motor centres, partly in the direction of the muscles, and more particularly the ocular muscles which move the eye, and partly in that of the sensory centre which is concerned in the reception of nervous impressions."
If a person tries to grip the hand of a paralyzed arm, he cannot, but muscular effort will manifest in some part of his body. Energy has been expended.
In other words, " the stimuli that excite the nervous force or irritability are of two kinds, physical and mental. Physical stimuli embrace all external excitants of whatever nature — light, heat, sound, odor, and every variety of chemical, mechanical, and galvanic irritant. Mental stimuli result from the exercise of the Will and thought."
The Will is thus the power back of vision.
Professor James cites the case of a girl, born with-out arms or legs, who " came as quickly to a right judgment of the size and distance of visible objects as her brothers and sisters, although she had no use of hands."
Many children have the power of calling up " queer " forms in the darkness.
Cases like the following are not altogether rare : " A man in the Greek island of Hydra was accustomed to take his post every day for thirty years on the summit of the island, and look out for the approach of vessels; and although there were over three hundred sail belonging to the island, he would tell the name of each one as she approached with unerring certainty, while she was still at such a distance as to present to a common eye only a confused white blur upon the clear horizon." The long practice which resulted in this ability involved volitional acts.
The greater the Will (with a good eye), the greater our capacity for correct vision.
As exercise with vision improves the eye, so such exercise augments the flow of energy to the appropriate muscles and nerve-centres connected with sight.
Hence, conversely, all right exercises with the eyes tend to growth of that power which controls the eyes —the Will — provided they are carried on with that end held intensely in view.
In the following practice, therefore, the mind must take on energy, and it must energetically, attend to the thing in hand by the whole of itself, excluding all other elements of perception. This will at first be difficult; as in the case of any muscular or nervous exertion. But to him who constantly declares, " I RESOLVE TO WILL ! ATTENTION!! " perfect power of continued and exclusive concentration comes at last to be second nature.
"The culminating point in education is the power to attend to things that are in themselves indifferent, by arousing an artificial feeling of interest."
Hence, in the exercises that follow, the Mood or feeling of Will should be kept strongly in mind.
Exercise No. 1. Select an object for attention, in the room, or out of doors, say, a chair or a tree. Gaze at this object attentively, persistently, steadily. Do not strain the eyes ; use them naturally. Now note the object's size. Estimate this. Observe its distance from yourself, and from other objects around it. Note its shape. Determine how it differs in shape from other things near it. Clearly note its color. Does it in this harmonize with its surroundings? If so, how? If not, in what respect. Make out its material. How was it made? What is its true purpose? Is it serving that purpose? Could it in any way be improved? How might this improvement be brought about?
In seeking the above information, hold mind rigidly to its task. It will be hard at first ; but persistence in the exercise will ultimately secure ease and swiftness.
Now, without looking further at the object, write out all results as nearly as you can remember.
Repeat this exercise for ten days, resting two days, one of which should be Sunday, with the same object, and on the tenth day look at the object and observe improvement.
Always keep the Will-idea in mind.
Exercise No. 2. At a moderate gait pass once through or around a room, observing, quickly and attentively, as many objects as possible. Now, closing the door so as to shut out the room, write down the names of all articles which you remember at that time to have seen. Depend upon your memory, not your knowledge.
Repeat this exercise for ten days with rest, as above, and on the tenth observe improvement.
Finally, go into the room and note carefully every object which you have not discovered. Estimate the percentage of your failures.
Exercise No. 3. Procure twenty-five or thirty marbles, of medium size. Let eight or ten be red, eight or ten yellow, eight or ten white. Place in an open box and thoroughly mingle the colors. Now, seize one handful, with right and left hand at once, and let the marbles roll out together onto a covered surface, of a table or the floor. When they are at rest, glance once at the lot, and, turning away, write the number, as you recall (do not guess) for each color.
Repeat this exercise for ten days, with rest, and on the tenth day, estimate your improvement.
Exercise No. 4. Procure fifty pieces of cardboard, two inches square, each having one letter printed upon it in plain, good-sized type. Place them all, scattered, letters down, upon a table. Take in one hand ten of these squares, face down, and throw, face up, all at once, but so as to separate them, upon the table. Now, look at them sharply one instant. Then turn away, and write down the letters recalled. Immediate y repeat this exercise with ten other cards. Immediately repeat with ten other cards. Repeat these three exercises for ten days, with rest, and on the tenth da note improvement for each successive corresponding throw over first.
The above exercises should all be practised each day, for ten days, at least. They may be continued indefinitely with profit, both to attention and to the Will. But the rest periods must be observed.
Exercise No. 5. Let the eyes be wide open, b t not disagreeably distended. The gaze should now be directed straight in front, with every power of attention alert. Try to observe, without turning the e es a hair's breadth, all objects in the field of vision, hile gazing ten seconds, determined by slow counting. Write out the names of all objects recalled. D pend upon memory, not knowledge.
Repeat the exercise ten days, with rest, as above, always from the same position, looking in the same direction, to preserve the same exercise, and o the tenth day note improvement.
Exercise No. 6. Repeat the above exercise n all respects except that the position and field of vision of each day is to be different from those preceding, and on the tenth day note improvement.
Exercises for the Eye
Observe : Counting off the seconds is a slower process than is ordinarily supposed. The speed with which one must count in order to pronounce " sixty " at the end of a minute may be easily noted by counting while. following with the eyes the second hand of a watch as it moves once around the minute circle.
Exercise No. 7, Gaze steadily, winking naturally, at some object not very far away, say, ten or sixty feet. Keep the mind intently upon the object. Count sixty to a minute while so gazing intently and observingly. Now, shut the eyes, and strive to call up a mental image of the object.
With some people the image may be as vividly de-fined as the real object. With most, probably, it will not be so vivid. Look up that word " vivid." Write a description of the image, whether clear or indistinct, with all parts mentally seen. Do not help the writing by looking a second time at the object; trust the image. Repeat this exercise on ten different objects on the same day. Repeat these exercises for ten days, with rest, as above, making and marking records each day, and on the tenth day note improvement.
Although the time set for practice is ten days, the exercises may be profitably continued for any length of time.
Remember : the purpose here is to learn to see things as they are, and to impress them upon mind. Great improvement, both in distinctness of vision and in details of single mental objects may thus be made as practice goes on. The essential thing; now, is patience and persistence. Whether the mental image may be cultivated so that the mental objects shall assume the electric or sunlit tone, seems doubtful.
But, within certain limits, the eye of the soul will come to see more and more clearly as persistent endeavor continues. Especially will this be the case if he soul steadfastly wills that it be so.
The value of the end sought clear perception connects ultimately with the consideration of motives. This requires that things shall be seen as they actually are, that outcomes or consequences shall be vividly noted, in themselves individually and as comprehended in groups, in order that their full effect upon mind may be felt, and that adequate comparison among motives may be instituted. These exercises cultivate eye perception, memory, mental vision and self control ,The end of all is the developed Will.
Exercise No. 8. Lastly, the eye may be trained to directness of gaze. Some eyes never look into other eyes steadily, but glance and shift from eye to object, here and there, without purpose or gain. Some public speakers never look squarely into the faces of their auditors, but gaze either up at the ceiling or down to the floor, or roam over all their hearers, seeing none. One of the subtlest elements of inspiration is thus missed the face, mouth, eyes, attitude of eager humanity. As a rule, a large element in successful personal address lies in the eye. Directness of gaze is psychological winner. The straightforward, frank eye is a power wherever it is seen on the street, in the store, at the social gathering, on the rostrum.
The might of a good eye can be cultivated. I order to this, mind must be put into the " windows of the soul." What men get out of life and nature d pends upon the amount of mind that can be put into the look. If reality is to be possessed, mind must come forward and take it " by force." The soul in the eye means power with men. Cultivate, therefore, with every person met, the habit of the direct and steady look. Do not stare. Look people full in the eyes. The soul must always be in the eye for this exercise. Let the gaze be open, frank, friendly. And remember, that the vacant stare is a sign of idiocy, and in the domain of Will is ruled out.
Exercise No. 9. Gaze steadily, but winking naturally, at a small spot on the wall of a room, eight or ten feet away. Do not strain the eyes. Count fifty while so gazing. Keep mind wholly on the thought: The Direct Eye. Put back of that thought the Mood of a strong Will : " I WILL ! I AM FORCING WILL INTO THE EYE."
Repeat this exercise ten times for ten days, with rest, as above, adding each day to the count fifty, twenty counts; thus, first day, fifty; second day, seventy; third day, ninety; etc.
Exercise No. ro. A dull gaze is akin to the vacant stare. The steady, direct look ought to be bright and full of energy. The energy of the eye's regard may be developed, and with profit, if the soul behind it is honest.
Gaze at any object in the room near by, steadily, but naturally, that is permitting the eyes to wink as they will. Put the whole soul into the eyes. Observe, the soul is to be put into the eyes, not into or upon the object. And do not look at the nose; look at the object, but bring consciousness forward to its windows. Summon your entire energy to the act of looking. Do this repeatedly, resting properly, and never permitting the eyes to grow weary or to be strained.
Now, think of, and simulate, some emotion, and try to look that feeling with great power. Examples: Intense interest Throw delighted attention into the eyes. Deep joy Assume a genuine joyful feeling and expression. Avoid the grinning mimicry of the clown. Fierce hate Blaze a look at the ink stand sufficient to annihilate its black shape. Thus with all emotions of the soul.
Repeat these exercises daily for months. It is really worth while. After a time you will discover that you are the possessor of a good eye, and that your power of Will has grown correspondingly.
Meanwhile, having caught the knack of calling the mind's energy to the act of looking, persist in gazing with all possible forcefulness at all persons and objects met. Acquire the habit of throwing, not the eye upon the object, but the soul into the eye as it regards the object, and the idea of Will clear forward in the consciousness. In other words, cultivate the habit of the direct and penetrating regard, avoiding the stare and all violations of good taste.
The eye of the average interested child is bright, full of soul-power, " magnetic ; "- unless it happen to be an infant still in the thraldom of arms, when the human gaze frequently becomes something uncanny, preternaturally capable of disconcerting sinners, and altogether above the plane of practical illustration. The four-year-old, the saintly mother, and the righteous police judge, have all straightforward and powerful eyes. The eye of Saint Michael is surely like his sword. The regard of the man Jesus must have been equal to His word naked verity. Hence the two secrets of masterful eyes are, directness and honesty. Here, after all, lies the foundation of Will-culture: straightforward means honest purposes.
Exercise No. 11. Having acquired the art of putting soul into the act of vision, straightforward and honest, now resolve on seeing, naming and knowing the various objects that exist in your neighborhood, and on any street or road over which you may pass. Cultivate the habit of intelligent and accurate observation. It is said that " in Siberia a traveler found men who could see the satellites of Jupiter with the naked eye." Multitudes fail to see a thousand things which they pass daily during life. A Will-fed eye is a rich minister to the values of life. Browning's lines are symbolic of the outcome:
"German Boehme never cared for plants
In personal interviews the power of the eye is well known. It plays a very important rôle. The following suggestions are of value: " One of the most important things about the beginning of an interview, is that you should look the other person squarely in the eye, with a firm, steady, attracting gaze. . During the conversation you may change the direction of your gaze, but whenever you make a proposition, statement or request, or whenever you wish to impress him strongly, you must direct a firm, steady, magnetic gaze towards him, looking him straight in the eye."
Remember: Directness of gaze is psychological winner.
A great law now emerges : The value of the use of any sense depends upon the amount and quality of per-son thrown into its exercise.
The person who unceasingly asserts to his eyes : " I RESOLVE TO WILL ! ATTENTION!! " cannot fail to develop a look or gaze which is perennially direct and full of energy.