THE INFLUENCE OF THE EYES
Few persons escape the influence of the human eye. If its look is imperious, it subjugates; if it is tender, it moves; if it is sad it penetrates the heart with melancholy. But this influence can not be real and strong unless it is incited by the thought behind it which maintains and fixes that look, in communicating to it the expression either terrible or favorable, persuasive or defiant, which alone can maintain the firmness and the perseverance of the active forces of our brain.
Some persons possess naturally a fascinating eye; usually they are those who can maintain a steady gaze for a long time without blinking. But it is not sufficient to be able to throw a glance the persistence of which sometimes causes a passing discomfort, which almost always tends toward the subjection of spirits of the weaker sort.
This look should be the projection of a thought in which the fixed form is definite enough so that its penetrative influence shall become efficacious. But, some one will say, it is not always necessary to think, since several animals possess this power of fascination, like the snake, which holds a bird motionless under the power of its gaze, so that it never dreams of trying to use its wings to escape from its enemy. But if conscientious thought does not exist in the animal, it is nevertheless active in responding to instinct.
There is a blind force in the brain of the serpent, which nevertheless is very strongly accentuated, and which turns it from taking possession of its prey, and this force, mastered by a powerful instinct, determines a compulsion which in the weaker creature is sufficient to paralyze all inclination to resist. But the serpent does not monopolize this privilege of fascination, if one may believe certain old French chronicles.
In the old book published by Rousseau in the seventeenth century, it is related that a toad shut up in a vase that he could not get out of found it difficult to endure the fascination of the human eye; at first, in evident uneasiness, it tried to escape; then, when convinced that that was impossible, it would return to its former position and stare at the person in its turn, and ended by dying of the effect of this peculiar force.
Is it necessary to lend strength to this story by adding that one day a toad, stronger or more irritable than the others, riveted its eyes so long upon a man's eyes that he actually felt the influence of the creature and swooned under the implacable fixity of its gaze? I do not believe that such experiences have been officially established, but it is none the less interesting to conclude that if under the sway of an instinctive thought, the eye of an animal can acquire a rare power, the eye of man, when he is animated by an active and reasonable thought, may be an important agent of influence and of suggestion.
In order to convince an adversary, said the Japanese philosopher, one must look him straight in the eyes. But it would be very stupid and unskilful to employ this method without discretion. Some would see in it only insolence, and their irritation would prevent them from feeling the full influence of the gaze; others would feel a certain uneasiness which would cause them to turn the eyes away before having submitted entirely to the gazer's influence, and might prevent them from renewing an interview with a person that had imprest them so unpleasantly.
The best way to begin the use of the eye in influencing is to talk of subjects that will not arouse suspicion in the interlocutor. One should present himself in an easy and quiet manner and listen without showing any signs of impatience to whatever objections the person may make; some of these may not be lacking in accuracy, and it would be unwise to combat them. It is unnecessary to add that the least hastiness, which would displace the point of concentration of the thought, would be injurious, and might work serious harm to the success that we seek. Too great excess of modesty should be avoided, for the transmission of thought—and consequently of influence—is worked at our cost.
Timidity is always an obstacle to the influence of the eye, which should, at the very first interchange of glances, look straight and frankly into the eyes of the interlocutor, at the top of the bridge of the nose. The first conflict once over, one should turn away his eyes carelessly; especially he should avoid the eyes of his opponent (as we will call him) in the first minutes of conversation, before your own have gained any hold on him; one should in some way fix his gaze without allowing his eyes to gain a hold over your own. In short, he who wishes to influence another by his look, must take the greatest care not to let him suspect his design, which would immediately put him on the defensive and render all your efforts vain.
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