By Hwaa Irfan
“Even though we think we see the world so fully, what we are receiving is really just hints, edges in space and time,” commented Frank S. Werbin, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the College of Letters & Science, U.C. Berkeley.
“The brain interprets this spares information, probably merging it with images from memory to create the physical world as we know it.”
The Emotional Connection
Further evidence supporting the notion that ‘we do not really see everything around us’ was presented in March 2001 Nature Magazine. The article demonstrated that there are up to 12 output channels linking the layered cells of the retina to the brain, each carrying a different stripped-down image of the physical world. The relay of information takes place between each layer of retinal cell, much like a series of animated drawings, which are fast-forwarded on a rolling camera to create a 3D animated film.
However, unlike an animated film the human eye cannot control the images, especially if the human visual organs are dependent on what the brain has recorded from previous exposure. In fact, your brain has a lot more to do with what you see than your eyes do technically.
After years of medical practice, Dr. William Bates (d. 1931) a physician and ophthalmologist in the U.S. began to see vision as depending on (by at least 50%) on metal processes. He found that when the well being of the patient improves, so too did their eyesight.
As a result, much of his work was based on the alleviation of stress, which affects the two oblique extrinsic layers encircling the eyeball. He developed a series of techniques which exercised the eye muscles and re-trained people to use their eyes in a relaxed manner. These exercises came to be known as the Bates Method.
Author, Aldous Huxley who initially needed powerful glasses to see and write, used the Bates Method and wrote in his Art of Seeing,
“They (ophthalmologists) have paid attention exclusively to eyes, not at all to the mind, which makes use of the eyes to see with.”
Bates Method practitioner, Evelyn Sage, believed that many eye defects are the result of fear, anger, and anxiety – negative emotions that lead to tension. These negative emotions distort the faculty of reason, which Allah (SWT) has blessed us with. A recent example is the youth uprising in Egypt Jan- 2011 from which a strange video was made and aired on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show.” The incident involved protestors on camelback, which is not so unusual given the different lifestyles of Egyptians including desert dwellers. Instead what was aired was a projection of the American preoccupation with the Apocalypse and Armaggedon, i.e. “The 4th Horseman of the Apocalypyse” (Book of Revelations from the Bible) donned in sheets representing ghosts. Many viewers saw what the “video-maker” wanted them to see, a portent representing the sign of the Apocalypse. Increasing Islamophobic imagery, and engendering fear towards that part of the world, as an excuse to get involved and “fight the good fight” from U.S. soil. This makes good use of what Huxley referred to as “…the mind, which makes use of the eyes to see with.”
When balanced, we see things as they are –
“ … in a state of willingness, to surrender, to let go of anything. This state is the beginning of the awakening of the inner sight – the awakening of intelligence. If you are willing to let go of everything, whatever anxieties, fears, expectations, or desires you have, then your energy becomes available. Your intelligence is sharper. Your actions will be more successful because you can see whether they relate or not…” – Fadhlallah Haeri
We are then able to see things as they are and not as we want them to be.
Of course the eye is also subject to a number of diseases besides distorted mental perceptions. Every year some 2,000 – 4, 000 Americans suffer from scarring due to chemical burns, diseases, or chronic inflammation. Cataracts, a result of malnutrition and toxicity, conjunctivitis due to bacterial/viral infections and allergies, astigmatism – distorted vision caused by differing curvatures in differing directions; and eyestrain are among the common afflictions. With modern medical science waving its magic wand, so to as many solutions to these afflictions: cataracts can be removed, corneas can be replaced, and glaucoma can be treated; but dead photoreceptor cells remain for the most part untreatable. By 2000, Dr. Ray Jui-Fang, and his colleagues at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital and University of Taoguan, Taiwan, successfully reversed vision loss in 6 patients using bioengineering techniques on previously untreatable corneal damage.
While modern science struggles to grapple with the “mind-eye” connection aiming to solve vision problems mechanically (which plays an important but not “the” only role), Islam and other spiritual practices provides answers to our visual problems by clearing our minds and calming us. This according to Bates helps us to “see” more clearly! However the next conundrum is the illusion of free will when the neurological basis for decision making consists of firing neurons that are faster than the conscious decision-making process!
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