Desperate for help [with his failing vision], Huxley was persuaded to pursue the Bates Method, a controversial theory (now largely debunked) suggesting, among other things, that glasses shouldn’t be worn, natural sunlight could be beneficial and a series of exercises and techniques could help improve vision. He claimed impressive results: ‘Within a couple of months I was reading without spectacles and, what was better still, without strain and fatigue … At the present time, my vision, though very far from normal, is about twice as good as it used to be when I wore spectacles.’

That quote comes from The Art Of Seeing, the book he published about his experiences with The Bates Method in 1942. Reviews, were mixed at best. The British Medical Journal review declared: ‘For the simple neurotic who has abundance of time to play with, Huxley’s antics of palming, shifting, flashing, and the rest are probably as good treatment as any other system of Yogi or Couéism. To these the book may be of value. It is hardly possible that it will impress anyone endowed with common sense and a critical faculty.’

In the same article the author suggested that Huxley’s vision may actually have improved naturally with time as some conditions move in cycles. Others, meanwhile, doubted that he could see much at all. Wikipedia cites a Saturday Review column from Bennett Cerf published in 1952, just two years before The Doors Of Perception, describes Huxley speaking at a Hollywood banquet, wearing no glasses and seemingly reading from his notes with ease: ‘Then suddenly he faltered — and the disturbing truth became obvious. He wasn’t reading his address at all. He had learned it by heart. To refresh his memory he brought the paper closer and closer to his eyes. When it was only an inch or so away he still couldn’t read it, and had to fish for a magnifying glass in his pocket to make the typing visible to him. It was an agonising moment.’