COMPANION

Eyes and Vision

F. M. Alexander

Alexander makes several references to the use of eyes in his writings and talk, although he did not prescribe any specific activity for the use of the eyes. In his teaching he asked his pupils to keep their eyes open, to see, to look.[1] As did A. R. Alexander.[2]

References in Alexander’s writings, talk and teaching include:

1. In Man’s Supreme Inheritance he describes an example of a habit of the use of the eyes which will lead to unnecessary strain for the eyes:

For instance, in the subconsciously controlled person the attempt to lengthen the neck is invariably preceded by a movement of the eyes in an upward or downward direction. Wrong use of the eyes in this or some similar manner too frequently is the forerunner of what eventually develops into an established habit, often causing an unnecessary and undue strain of the eyes which seriously impairs their efficiency, and which in the ordinary way of life leads to the specific treatment of these organs. It is obvious, however, that what is needed in such a case is the eradication of the erroneous preconceived idea and harmful habits, thereby removing gradually the undue and unnecessary strain upon the organs of sight.[3]

2. In Man’s Supreme Inheritance he argues against people closing theirs eyes for the purpose of thinking. (“People will tell you they can think better by closing their eyes. This is a prevalent form of self-hypnotism, self-deception, and produces a state of dreaming which is particularly serious because it is a harmful condition assumed consciously.”)[4]

The same argument is used later for not allowing his pupils to close their eyes during lessons.[5]

3. In Man’s Supreme Inheritance he says concentration is often associated with closing the eyes or staring fixedly at some point in the room.[6]

4. In Man’s Supreme Inheritance, in several places, he uses the the expression of the eyes as indicators of use; see for example the chapter ‘Notes and Instances’.[7]

5. Also in CCC, he uses the expression of the eyes as indicators of use.

First observe the strained expression of the eyes, an expression of anxiety and uneasiness, denoting unduly excited fear reflexes; in some cases the eyes may be distorted, and the whole expression one that is recognized as the self-hypnotic stare.[8]

6. In The Use of the Self, the use of the eyes is discussed in the example of playing golf, in the chapter ‘The Golfer who cannot keep his Eyes on the Ball’.

7. On moving the eyes up or down, in the 1934 Bedford Physical Training College Lecture.[9]

8. Two aphorisms (from the 1930s) refer to the eyes. One to the association between thinking of lengthening and raising the eyes up (as described in MSI above), and the other is:

Mr. S. came and said he had trouble with his eyes. He spent three days in bed, when he found his eyes working quite normally, and this continued all the time he was in bed. As soon as he got up again and began walking about, his eyes went wrong again.[10]

9. In UoS, in the chapter ‘The golfer who cannot keep his eye on the ball’, Alexander discusses the overall coordination which includes where the eyes are looking. (See also ‘A quiet eye’ below.)

Aldous Huxley, Criticism of Bates

When Aldous Huxley, who had been a pupil of Alexander, published The Art of Seeing[11] which contains Bates exercises for the eyes, Alexander was reportedly disappointed as he did not believe in specific exercises.[12]

Later writings

First generation teachers

  • Marjory Barlow emphasised the importance of the eyes in An Examined Life.[13]
  • Walter Carrington was interviewed on ‘The use of the eye’ by Brigitte Cavadias and Marjory Fern. He testified to the keen observation skills of Alexander and on the importance of seeing.[14] [15]

The Eye Orders

  • Countess Catharine Wielopolska developed the order ‘eyes free to go apart’ which are explained in her lecture ‘The Discovery and Use of the Eye Order in Teaching the Alexander Work’.[16] For a criticism see Personally Speaking.[17]
  • ‘Let the eyes be free’ by Posie Green; on Kitty Wielopolska’s eye orders by a third-year student who had lessons with Wielopolska.[18]

General on the Alexander Technique and vision

  • ‘Eyesight, vision and the Alexander Technique’ by Peter Grunwald; on applying inhibition and direction to vision improvement, suspending the stimuli to see clearly in all circumstances and applying the direction of lengthening and widening of the peripheral vision.[19]
  • ‘The eyes and the primary control’ by Kathleen Ballard contains explorations of eye-related activities for the purpose of neuromuscular coordination and sensory awareness; also for demonstrating the close connection between the visual system and the primary control.[20]
  • ‘Visual awareness’ by Nicola Hanefeld; on improving vision as a natural dynamic function, being conscious of seeing.[21]
  • ‘A quiet eye’ by Rose Bronec reports on Joan Vickers’ research eyetracking athletes; receiving the right visual information at the right time for the right length of time determines success. Vickers developed the Quiet Eye method, the ability to focus for an appropriate time.[22] (BBC also reported on Joan Vickers. She ‘hooked a group of professional golfers up to a device that precisely monitored their eye movements as they putted their balls. She found an intriguing correlation: the better the player (as measured by their golfing handicap) the longer and steadier their gaze on the ball just before, and then during, their strike. Novices, by contrast, tended to shift their focus between different areas of the scene, with each fixation lasting for shorter periods of time.’ This also applies to other sports where an ‘expert athlete hold their gaze for 62% longer than novices’.[23])
  • ‘Being, seeing, thinking’ by Brigitte Cavadias and Marianne Moinot explores the multiple interactions between vision and general use.[24]
  • ‘How the Alexander Techniqe can change our view’ by Petra Poman examines connections between visual habits and a person’s overall pattern of use.[25]

EyeBody

  • Peter Grunwald, a teacher of the Alexander Technique, developed a special system of working with the eyes, called ‘EyeBody’.[26]
  • ‘Eyesight and the Alexander Technique’ by Peter Grunwald is on his own Eye-Body Reflex Patterns system.[27]
  • ‘Integrating eyes, brain and body’ by Peter Grunwald argues that the visual system has a primary coordinating function, and therefore inefficient visual coordination affects use.[28]
  • ‘Applying Alexander principles to seeing without glasses’ by Peter Grunwald argues for the importance of the visual cortex, that its correct use activates ‘the blueprint that synchronizes brain, eyes and body’, and that it directly relates to the primary control.[29]
References

[1] Explaining the Alexander Technique by Walter Carrington, Seán Carey, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 11.
[2] Explaining the Alexander Technique by Walter Carrington, Seán Carey, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 58.
[3] Man's Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), pp. 114-115.
[4] Man's Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 16.
[5] Man's Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), pp. 133-134.
[6] Man's Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), p. 16.
[7] Man's Supreme Inheritance by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 1996), pp. 188–189.
[8] Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 169.
[9] ‘Bedford Physical Training College Lecture’ (1934) in Articles and Lectures by F. M. Alexander (Mouritz, 1995, London), p. 178.
[10] Aphorisms by F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2000), p. 30.
[11] The Art of Seeing by Aldous Huxley (Chatto & Windus, 1977).
[12] Explaining the Alexander Technique by Walter Carrington, Seán Carey, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 11.
[13] An Examined Life by Marjory Barlow, Trevor Allen Davies (Mornum Time Press, 2002), p. 143.
[14] ‘The use of the eye’ by Walter Carrington, Brigitte Cavadias and Marjory Fern in Direction vol. 2, no. 7 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 1999), pp. 29-32.
[15] ‘The use of the eye’ by Walter Carrington, Brigitte Cavadias and Marjory Fern in An Evolution of the Alexander Technique by Walter Carrington, Dilys Carrington (Sheildrake Press, 2017), pp. 189–97.
[16] ‘The Discovery and Use of the Eye Order in Teaching the Alexander Work’ by Countess Catharine Wielopolska and Dr Mario Pazzaglini. Edited by Carol A. Attwood. Unpublished MS. Late 1970s or early 1980s.
[17] Personally Speaking by Walter Carrington, Seán Carey, (Mouritz, 2001 [1986]), pp. 126-128.
[18] ‘Let the eyes be free’ by Posie Green in The Alexander Review vol. 1, no. 2. (Centerline Press, 1986), pp. 13–18.
[19] ‘Eyesight, vision and the Alexander Technique’ by Peter Grunwald in The Congress Papers 1994, The Meaning of Change, 125 Years On, edited by David Garlick (Direction, 1996), pp. 90–93.
[20] ‘The eyes and the primary control’ by Kathleen Ballard in The Alexander Journal no. 16 edited by Adam Nott (STAT, 1999), pp. 9–17.
[21] ‘Visual awareness’ by Nicola Hanefeld in The Alexander Journal no. 17 edited by Francsca Greenoak (STAT, 2001), pp. 32–33.
[22] ‘A quiet eye’ by Rose Bronec in AmSAT News issue no. 74 (Summer 2007), p. 12.
[24] ‘Being, seeing, thinking’ by Brigitte Cavadias and Marianne Moinot in The Congress Papers 2008, From Generation to Generation Vol. 1 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (STATBooks, 2009), pp. 88–92.
[25] ‘How the Alexander Techniqe can change our view’ by Petra Poman in STATNews vol. 9, no. 6 edited by Jamie McDowell (STAT, January 2017), pp. 33-34, 46.
[26] Eyebody – The Art of Integrating Eye, Brain and Body by Peter Grunwald (Condevis Publishing, 2004).
[27] ‘Eyesight and the Alexander Technique’ by Peter Grunwald in STATNews vol. 6, no. 1 edited by Ann James (STAT, May 2000), pp. 12–13.
[28] ‘Integrating eyes, brain and body’ by Peter Grunwald in The Congress Papers 2004, Exploring the Principles edited by Anne Oppenheimer (STATBooks, 2005), pp. 155–60.
[29] ‘Applying Alexander principles to seeing without glasses’ by Peter Grunwald in STATNews vol. 8, no. 8 edited by Jamie McDowell (STAT, January 2015), pp. 23–24.