I can see! Near-death experiences in the congenitally blind.
Traditional science maintains near-death experiences (ndes) are not extraordinary experiences. Instead, it insists they are merely explainable physiological, psychological, and pharmacological based phenomena. Skeptics most often attribute them to: hallucinations, awareness during anesthesia, false memories, sleep paralysis, or confabulations (the production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive).
Personally, I am a STRONG believer that ndes are a form of spiritual consciousness-an expanded supersensory awareness not connected to the physical body. I consider the most convincing proof their validity are those which occur in the congenitally blind (blind from birth).
Most individuals believe (and I was one of them) that the congenitally blind can, at the very least, “see” the color black. After all, don’t most of us claim we see ‘black’ when we squeeze our eyes tightly shut? Or perhaps believe the blind may ‘see’ in dreams? The fact is, they don’t.
As one blind individual explains to the sighted, “Close one eye and look straight ahead. What you see out of your closed eye isn’t black, it’s nothing. You don’t see anything at all.” I tried this. And it’s absolutely true.
Vicki Noratuck, a congenitally blind near-death experiencer was asked if she had ever experienced visual perception while dreaming. She responded, “Nothing. No color, no sight of any sort, no shadows, no light, no nothing.”
Yet, during ndes, vision in the blind greatly, and inexplicably, exceeds that of sighted individuals. Nearly all blind nders (near-death experiencers) report having greater than 360-degree vision, or omnidirectional awareness, often reporting spherical, three-dimensional visual awareness simultaneously in all directions - forward, backward, right, left, above, and below. Pretty amazing, right? This certainly defies traditional scientific explanation.
As the sighted, blind nders report experiencing a separation of the soul from their physical body, while simultaneously observing it from “a perspective different from the body's actual location.” Most often they describe floating above their physical bodies; observing both themselves and surrounding activity in a detached, calm manner.
Let’s consider Vicki’s nde. After a near-fatal car accident and suffering from brain damage, Vicki was rushed to the hospital in a coma. She recalls her experience by stating: “And it was frightening because I’m not accustomed to see things visually, because I never had before! And initially it was pretty scary! And then I saw finally saw my wedding ring and my hair. And then I thought, is that my body down there?”
Upon resuscitation, Vicki described seeing her crumpled Volkswagen van. Additionally, she “saw” herself floating above the stretcher and travelling to the hospital’s roof, where she experienced a 360-degree panoramic view of the hospital grounds. Vicki’s surgical team later verified her completely accurate description and precise 360-degree “visual” description of both her van and hospital grounds.*
Remarkably, researchers maintain that case studies of the congenitally blind are literally indistinguishable from those of the sighted. Both describe “greatly enhanced and greater than 360 vision. As one sighted nder describes:
“I could see everything. And I do mean everything! I could see the top of the light on the ceiling, and the underside of the stretcher. I could see the tiles on the ceiling and the tiles on the floor, simultaneously. Three hundred sixty-degree spherical vision. And not just spherical. Detailed! I could see every single hair and the follicle out of which it grew on the head of the nurse standing beside the stretcher. At the time I knew exactly how many hairs there were to look at”. *
Indeed, it is incredible that congenitally blind nders apparently transcend limitations of the everyday sensory organs. Perhaps the blind can see using the visual acuity of the astral, rather than physical body. In other words, they are seeing via a non-local, or spiritual consciousness.
However, there will always be skeptics. Those inclined to doubt accepted opinions, the possibility of newfound knowledge, or even rational belief. Skepticism is often directed at the spiritual and paranormal realms. Why? They are unknown. Often inexplicable, threatening, or scary.
Yet, even for die-hard skeptics, it’s hard to argue with this evidence.
The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.
* Mindsight: Near-Death and Out-of-Body Experiences in the Blind
Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper, iUniverse, Bloomington, IN, 2008.