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J., E. (1943). Psychopathology: The Art of Seeing. By Aldous Huxley. (Chatto & Windus, London, 1943. Pp. viii + 144. Price, 7 s.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 24:81.

(1943). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 24:81

Psychopathology: The Art of Seeing. By Aldous Huxley. (Chatto & Windus, London, 1943. Pp. viii + 144. Price, 7 s.)

Review by:
E. J.

It is characteristic of unorthodox therapeutic measures that they have at their disposal endless examples of what the Germans well call Wunderkuren in cases which have defied the most expert medical treatment: how orthodox psycho-analysis must be when judged by this criterion, since it expatiates but little on its therapeutic successes!

Mr. Huxley's own case is of this nature, and it might seem cruel to dispel the illusions that have undoubtedly been of the greatest benefit to him were it not evident that the strength of his convictions place him beyond all such danger. The explanation of this state of affairs is not difficult. There is an essential truth in the Bates system of treating ocular trouble, though the theory on which it is founded is mainly incorrect. It is, of course, true to say that most ophthalmologists regard refractive errors and other visual troubles mainly in physiological terms and that psychological aspects are confined to the simple query: 'Which of these spectacles do you find most comfortable?' It is also true that the use of the eyes, their value for seeing, varies greatly, especially in defective cases, with the emotional attitude towards the eyes and their functions; hysterical amblyopia is a crass case in point. Those of us familiar with the erotogenetic functions of the eye, and further with the important unconscious symbolism in which it is so commonly involved, can well understand why this is so. The Bates system unwittingly deals, and on effective psychological lines, with these facts. It consists of a vast number of detailed injunctions and exercises, which in themselves contain some truisms mixed with a great deal of hocus-pocus, but which are on the whole rightly directed. The aim of them is to heighten confidence in the power of seeing and to counteract in various ways the fear of blindness. They do this by on the one hand stimulating the erotogenic functions of the eye—I have heard the exercises in question disrespectfully alluded to as 'ocular masturbation'—while on the other hand diminishing self-consciousness in the act of seeing by constantly deflecting the attention to indirect considerations. Little wonder that Mr. Huxley insists on the far greater value of the system being carried out with the aid of a teacher, for we know that hetero-suggestion is as a rule much more potent than autosuggestion.

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