| by Beth Daviess

In September of 2023, a wellness influencer went viral after a clip of her masterclass in which she taught her followers how to holistically heal vision without the use of glasses, was shared by an attendee on X (formerly Twitter). In an advertisement for the masterclass, she asks:

What’s the one thing that your optometrist doesn’t want you to know about? The fact that you don’t need glasses. That’s right, you may have been told that you need glasses, but that’s actually a lie. There are mental, emotional, physical and even spiritual reasons you might not be seeing, and I’m here to tell you that that can be healed.

Though highly publicized, these claims are not unique. Numerous wellness influencers and practitioners[1] are convincing their followers to take off their glasses and try healing their eyes “naturally.” This article will outline three of the many origins for anti-glasses beliefs and alternative vision healing methods. They are collectively informed by long-debunked pseudoscience and connect to sweeping conspiracy traditions. 

As with all wellness claims that purport to replace effective medical treatments, or find improved healing in “natural” methods, these claims put users in danger of delaying or forgoing medical care they may need or benefit from. Engagement with anti-glasses theories in particular can lead individuals to pursue dangerous activities, from driving without glasses to staring into the sun for prolonged periods. The stakes of such behavior can vary from minimal to exceedingly high. For example, this 1988 study examines four cases of permanent damage to the eye following ritualized sungazing.

Like other wellness-related conspiracies covered in this series, these anti-glasses theories can also expose consumers to a wide array of conspiracy content and promote engagement with more extreme ideology. After exploring these origins, this article will examine the claims at the beginning of this Note in more detail to consider how they syncretize elements from different traditions, broadening their appeal to a more general audience. 

The Bates Method and Exercise-Based Theories

Perhaps the first anti-glasses influencer was an ophthalmologist named Dr. William Horatio Bates, who, in 1920, self-published a book called The Cure of Imperfect Sight by Treatment Without Glasses. In it, Bates laid out the “Bates Method” for healing defective vision. Bates based his method on his belief that stress and physical tension negatively impacted sight, a flawed understanding that had been rejected by the scientific community at the time.[2] Key elements of the Bates Method involve exercises to allow the eyes to relax, breathing techniques, visualization of particular colors or objects, eye movements, and most controversially, sunning (also called sungazing), which involves looking directly into the sun.[3] Bates sometimes advocated for exposing only the white part of the eyeball to direct sunlight. 

Though Bates’s theories were rejected by his contemporaries in the medical community, he attracted a significant following. Even after his death, British writer Aldous Huxley, who had experienced multiple eye conditions and continued to have deteriorating vision, attempted Bates’s approach. Huxley claimed that by following the Bates Method he improved his vision within months. He later wrote The Art of Seeing, in which he credited the Bates Method for partially healing his vision. 

Though Bates died in 1931, searching for #batesmethod today produces thousands of results on Instagram and TikTok. One Bates Method proponent who has 32,000 followers on TikTok says “the idea of Bates’s Method is just physical therapy for your eyes.” Another influencer with over 61,100 followers grins into the camera as if elated, stating “I just went to the eye doctor and my vision is improving. I quit wearing my glasses all the time and quit wearing contacts all the time, and also started using castor oil[4] for my eyes.” While dancing to a viral song, she claims that her eye doctor “wouldn’t comment on or acknowledge the improvement.” The video caption reads “Better eyesight for me!! … Bates Method has helped me lower my prescription and helped get rid of my daily headaches and migraines.” The video hashtags include #heal; #batesmethod; #eyes; #glasses; #health; #naturalhealing; #nature; #naturalremedieswork; #vision. The video ends with a quote she attributes to Bates: “All people with nearsightedness or farsightedness should take off their glasses sooner rather than later.”  

The Bates Method is the most popular and widespread content studied in this report and transcends the English-speaking community: TikToks in French advocating the Bates Method logged more than 18,600 views, while a Spanish language account dedicated to Bates Method techniques boasts 63,700 followers. Bates Method International claims one of its goals is to “encourage discussion with orthodox eye care specialists.” It also connects individuals to 259 “natural vision teachers” all over the world and advertises events that range from weekly free online workshops to three-week paid destination retreats that promise to “undo physical, emotional and mental tensions which underlie ‘visual dysfunctions and fatigue.’”

Similar exercise-based approaches have arisen in this space, some that endorse and some that explicitly disclaim  the Bates Method. One of the most popular non-Bates Method approaches is known as EndMyopia and has a Facebook group boasting over 29,000 members and claims to have a mailing list with 200,000 recipients. The group explicitly positions itself in opposition to the glasses industry, claiming “nearsightedness is not an illness (but a $100 billion business),” with other articles titled “The Industry Looks Forward to Your Retinal Detachment,” and “Astigmatism: The High Fructose Corn Syrup of the Vision Industry.” All articles end with a postscript that says 

Your eyes aren’t “broken”. It’s your lens use and habits that keep making your eyes worse. And the massive hundred billion dollar optics industry loves it.  They keep selling you stronger and stronger glasses, and tell you stories of some mysterious genetic “myopia illness”. It’s nonsense. Your eyes are perfectly healthy

The founder of the group provides courses on “myopia control” that can cost over $1400 for a year-long subscription, and primarily involve focus exercises combined with gradual reduction of prescription lens strength and use. 

The staying power of the Bates Method and the rise of new similar approaches indicate the appeal of alternative health theories with narratives that address the failures of and conspiracy within established medical practices. These and other alternatives approaches seem to provide individuals with control over and agency in their health that many often feel is lacking in their experiences with conventional medicine, especially because these approaches promise to provide solutions to concerns that some patients may feel that mainstream medicine fails to address. These approaches are wrapped up in rhetoric that foments distrust of mainstream medicine and related institutions, which can ultimately lead to deepening conspiracy thinking and more extreme beliefs.

Metaphysics and Western Esotericism 

In an Instagram video titled “Client healed her eyesight – QHHT session,” a young woman describes her experience in a quantum hypnosis healing therapy (QHHT) session, in which she claims her eyesight was “cured.” The speaker claims that her eye doctor recommended surgery to her, but that following the QHHT session she was “seeing 20/20 in both eyes, they are crystal clear.” She states that “the universal divine wisdom within me was able to just give me so much more deeper clarity [sic] and validation on things that I was needing to navigate this journey of human life.”

The inventor of QHHT, Dolores Cannon, was a central figure in several conspiracy communities in the previous century and her influence has continued through other more recent conspiracy communities. Author of more than 17 books, Cannon’s influence in the conspiracy community has been equated to such infamous conspiracy theorists as David Icke, who popularized the conspiracy theory that many celebrities and politicians descend from a reptilian race. Cannon promoted many theories on alien contact, alternate realities, reincarnation, and accessing higher planes of existence. She helped popularize the idea of “starseeds,” that certain people are “volunteers” from other star systems who have chosen to incarnate in human bodies, a belief favored by Jacob Chansley, also known as the “QAnon Shaman.”

In September of 2023, an old video of Cannon went somewhat viral on Instagram, garnering 21,800 likes. In it, Cannon states, “You should never ever be sick, no aches, no pains, no nothing. Because the body is a miraculous machine that has been created and perfected to take care of itself and heal itself if we don’t interfere. If you have an illness or something, you have done it yourself. You make yourself sick.” Cannon claimed QHHT can heal any ailment by connecting the hypnotized individual with their different plane of consciousness. 

The user who claimed to heal her eyesight through QHHT describes the process as similar to “accessing the Akashic records,” which she claims to do often, and her Instagram bio states that she provides “Akashic Records Readings.” The Akashic Records are a fictional compendium of all knowledge of every lifeform in the universe. The compendium is supposedly “encoded vibrationally” into the fabric of space and can be accessed by various combinations of prayer and meditation. The concept of the Akashic Records derives from the Theosophical religious tradition and closely related Anthroposophical spiritual movement. As part of the broader phenomenon of western esotericism, scholars have argued that both traditions played significant roles in the development of Nazi ideology. By accessing the Akashic Records, movement leaders claimed to have acquired knowledge of a hierarchy of “Root Races,” with the Aryan race at the top. The Theosophical Society was the first modern group to adopt the Swastika symbol, which later became a German occultist representation of “Nordic Aryan racial transcendence,” before its adoption by the Nazi party. There is considerable debate about exactly what role Theosophy and Anthroposophy played in the development of Nazi ideology, and many accounts of occultism in Nazi ideology have been overstated. However, it is clear that the theories of racial hierarchy developed in Theosophy and Anthroposophy influenced Nazi ideology and imagery. This continues in far-right movements today, where Anthroposophy continues to influence German far right movements, a QAnon influencer calls himself “Akashic Daddy,” and accelerationist groups express esoteric beliefs about a superhuman Aryan race

Simply by seeking out alternative therapies to treat eyesight, an individual can easily be exposed to a vast array of conspiracy theories and theorists. What may seem like benign, if exceedingly optimistic, beliefs that humans should never be ill and can cure maladies with thought techniques are rooted in broad and deeply conspiratorial traditions and esoteric belief systems with fundamental ties to far-right movements. By accessing this content, users can be funneled into increasingly extreme conspiracy spaces. 

Sungazing and Flat Earth

A few niche influencers have developed their own theory about glasses: In a TikTok video with more than 24,900 likes, a man watches the sunrise while narrating his thoughts into the camera, stating

First thing in the morning, you’re able to stare directly into the sun, and through doing this I was able to stop wearing glasses and contact lenses. It’s been over three years now. Going on to four years since I put my contact lenses in. I don’t believe [the sun is] 93 million miles away. I believe it’s small, local, in the heavens, in the firmament and is on a circuit. It’s not what we’re being told I don’t believe. I corrected my vision staring at the sun they tell you not to stare at it. I believe this whole, this whole reality is based on a lie. So do your own research, do the opposite of what we’re being told, that’s my advice.

The video caption reads “Sun gazing corrected my vision #truthfund50000 #waterislife #thesun #researchflatearth #buyland #domelife #whynotme #questioneverything #buyland #nocurve #sungazing #sungazingmeditation #offgridhomestead.” In addition to denying that the sun is 93 million miles away, the creator refers to the sun being small, local, and on a circuit, a common flat earth refrain. The firmament refers to the vast solid dome that flat earthers believe contains the earth and sky. In several other videos, this creator advises and provides tips on sungazing, and includes hashtags such as #researchflatearth. The video was subsequently reposted by several other popular accounts, including a popular conspiracy theory influencer with 126,900 TikTok followers and 48,900 Instagram followers.

Other TikTok and YouTube users trace a connection between healing through sungazing and flat earth: in one video, a man talks to his young son, stating “I was just telling him about his pineal gland and how to de-calcify it to connect with a higher consciousness… and then we looked up in the sky and what we see? The moon! … And there’s an airplane. Yeah they out here with the chem trails early this morning. Anyway, sun coming up over here, the moon literally right there. What is it bubby? It’s a flat earth.” The video is tagged with the hashtags #flatearth, #flat, #sun, #moon, #sungazing, #morning. When referring to the pineal gland, the creator refers to the belief that sungazing activates the pineal gland, and through it, the “third eye.” The video also refers to the flat earth belief that, if the world was round, it would be impossible for the sun and moon to be visible at the same time. 

Few videos make such explicit connections between sungazing and flat earth theories. Some implicit connection may exist even in those that do not because of the crucial role the sun plays in many flat earth explanations or “proofs.” Many flat earth “proofs” require close observation of the sun, which will, they claim, show that it is much smaller, closer, and moves in a pattern corroborating flat earth theories. 

In his book The Earth was Flat: Insight into the Ancient Practice of Sungazing, prominent sungazer Mason Howe Dwinell outlines his method and philosophy of sungazing. Dwinell believes that by staring into the sun, humans can obtain all the nourishment they need and cease reliance on food, sometimes called eating the sun. In the final chapter of his book Dwinell explains how his journey with sungazing led him to have an openness to unorthodox ideas, which he says has “a direct correlation to the possibilities of miracles occurring in our life on a daily basis.” He states “It is a joke how seriously we take ourselves. The biggest hoot of all may be when we find out the earth actually was flat.” Though Dwinell does not claim to believe the flat earth theory, he strikes on perhaps unintentional insight about the connection between flat earth and sungazing: once one truly believes one unorthodox belief that flies in the face of conventional wisdom and scientific consensus, it becomes vastly easier to believe another. If you believe, despite overwhelming scientific consensus otherwise, that staring into the sun is in fact good for you, even nourishing, it would be much easier to disregard that consensus again and believe the possibility of a flat earth. A flat earth youtuber highlights this relationship, stating “Ima eat that right there, the sun, yummy.” She then looks at the camera, stating “let’s fine tune ya right now, and um, and get you to see what we’re seeing right now and that’s that the earth is flat.”

Whether the connection between flat earth, sungazing, and vision healing is incidental or meaningful, exposure to vision healing and sungazing content can directly lead to exposure to flat earth content. 

Syncretic Vision-Healing Theories

Our vision-healing masterclass influencer discussed at the beginning of this note does not fit neatly into any of these traditions. Her masterclass recommends a broad swath of activities, many of which mirror the recommendations of the Bates Method’s grab bag: “open your mind;” “meditate;” “take off your glasses;” “strengthen your eyes;” “morning light and fire gaze.”

Her masterclass also claims to offer a “metaphysical healing” approach to vision healing, focusing on “eye affirmations;” “visualization;” “energy healing;” “chakra work;” and “soul therapy.” She notes that humans are “designed to see,” echoing Dolores Canon’s understanding of the body as a “miraculous machine … created and perfected to take care of itself and heal itself.” A few example “eye healing affirmations” include: “I am open to receiving intuitive insights and seeing beyond the surface of things,” “My third eye is awake and aware, connecting me to higher realms of understanding and insight.” These appeals to deeper insights and higher understandings resemble the experience of the QHHT user and Akashic Records reader who received “divine wisdom” that gave her “deeper clarity and validation,” on her “journey of human life.” 

The influencer insists that the vision industry seeks to dupe consumers into believing they need glasses, and that only she is telling you the truth. In this sense, this influencer, groups like EndMyopia, esotericists, and flat earthers all fundamentally preach a similar strain of conspirituality: a belief that a secret group covertly controls, or is trying to control, the political, social, or economic order, that one way this manifests is the medical industry insisting that you need glasses to correct your vision, and that esteemed influencers must awaken you to the truth. 

By drawing practical exercises from Bates-type practices, metaphysical elements from esotericism, and compelling conspiracy narratives from many traditions, this influencer provides something for everyone, appealing to a wider array of audiences than any single theory could. Capturing a broad swath of theories into a single presentation, she represents a syncretism present in many wellness trends: she incorporates elements of disparate ideologies, while discarding more controversial or unappealing elements, to form a more marketable product.

Similar whitewashing of conspiracy content can be seen in the “Pastel QAnon” community that strips QAnon ideology of its more controversial elements, while promoting those with the broadest appeal in a palatable format. Researchers found that Pastel QAnon’s “softening of QAnon narratives creates a different radicalisation pipeline,” that social media platforms and governments often overlook.[5] Syncretic vision-healing theories creates a parallel pipeline into conspiracy spaces. 

Conspiratorial vision healing beliefs can be found within a broad range of conspiracy traditions. These theories open consumers to medically dangerous practices and can serve as a pipeline to further conspiricism. Some influencers have been able to take advantage of the varied content to form syncretic theories that broaden the appeal to a wider audience. This palatability inevitably serves as a conduit through which individuals can enter into more extreme conspiricism. 






[1] The author reviewed the accounts of key wellness influencers on popular social media platforms. Links to the cited content will not be provided to avoid driving additional traffic to them. Influencers have been anonymized to avoid contributing to notoriety. 

[2] The author will not attempt to debunk all claims made by the subjects of this research note. However, the medical consensus continues affirm that the Bates Method is ineffective at treating myopia: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5769202/


[3] For studies on the dangers of sungazing, see: https://journals.lww.com/epidem/fulltext/2003/11000/sun_exposure_as_a_risk_factor_for_nuclear_cataract.13.aspx




[4] Castor oil’s ability to help eyesight is another popular wellness claim. Though there is some evidence that castor oil may have some limited benefits and is an ingredient in some over-the-counter eyedrops, it is dangerous to use castor oil products in the eye that are not specifically created for that purpose: https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/news/20230807/tiktok-craze-for-castor-….

[5] Argentino, M. A. (2021, March 17). Pastel QAnon - GNET. GNET. https://gnet-research.org/2021/03/17/pastel-qanon/.



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