Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Review: Mindsight by Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper

Review: Mindsight

 by Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper

Today I'm reviewing Mindsight: Near-Death and Out-of-Body Experiences in the Blind (second edition) by Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper.

I saw this in a bookstore one day and just had to buy it. This book poses several fascinating questions: Do blind people actually "see" in out-of-body experiences (OBEs) and near-death experiences (NDEs)? If they're blind from birth, what is it like? Is it more like their normal mode of perception (centered around hearing, touching, smelling) or something entirely different from their normal mode of perception (centered around sight)?

To answer these questions, the authors contacted schools for the blind and arranged to interview several blind people who had OBEs and NDEs. Then they presented the evidence and some fascinating observations in the book. The book is more than just a bunch of interesting stories. In fact, it's rather dry, scientific, and analytical, but it's fascinating, in a good way.

In a nutshell, the answer is: Yes and no. They seem to be no different than OBEs and NDEs of people with normal sight. Sometimes people with normal sight report a strange mode of sight that doesn't exactly correspond with regular eyesight: they report being able to see in all directions at once: spherical sight. They sometimes report being able to sense an entire room with crystal clarity, but it's not exactly the same as physical eyesight.

One woman named Claudia who could see as a young child, but was blind by age 5, described it this way:
"It's kind of like vision but it's not vision...It was seeing but it wasn't vision...because vision is really sharp and it wasn't like that." (pg. 98)

This really piqued my interest. I devoted an entire chapter of my first book to the subject of OBE eyesight and its different modes and peculiarities. The chapter is called "Fight for Sight." You can read the chapter by clicking on this link. What Ring and Cooper found about the blind perfectly matches what I called "Astral Mind-Sensing" in the book. It's almost like you're remotely sensing everything in the room at once in great detail. For example, you "sense" that a chair is six feet (2 meters) in front of you and "sense" every detail about it, at a distance, but it's qualitatively different from "seeing." In fact, this seems to be the normal mode of operation for my OBE eyesight, and I often have to make an effort to switch my mode of perception to "astral sight" in order to get a more visual representation of things; one that more closely matches my physical sight.

Other times, the blind do seem to be able to "see." People who have extreme visual impairment can, in an OBE, suddenly "see" everything with crystal clarity.
It often startles them to be able to suddenly see clearly. For example:
"Interviewer: And was it a visual perception?
Nancy: Yes.
Interviewer: And could you tell me the clarity with which you saw too?
Nancy: Extremely clear. And to this moment it's just like it happened five seconds ago. Or it's happening right now, I can just see the whole thing." (pg. 74)
I guess I'm biased when it comes to this topic, given my experience, so by all means: read the book and judge for yourself. But a lot of the evidence is pretty compelling.

For example, one woman, Vicki, was congenitally blind (blind from birth), but she claimed to be able to see during her 1963 NDE. In her interview, they asked her what it was like. She said:
"I was shocked. I was totally in awe. I mean, I can't even describe it because I thought, 'So that's what it's like!' But then I thought, 'Well, it's even better...than what I could have imagined.'" (pg. 26)
But that might just be her interpretation or expectation, right? Or is there something more? Later, she goes on to describe things in detail like:
"I saw the metal chairs that we sat on as children and the round tables in the dining room, and they had plastic table cloths on them. I didn't have to touch the plastic table cloths to be aware of them." (pg. 32)
Another man, Brad, who was blind from birth describes:
"I remember seeing what we could call the backyard which was on one side of the building, and I remember that I could see a hill that I used to scamper up and down just for exercise in the part of that yard that was farthest from that particular building. Those are the sights that I can particularly remember seeing. I wondered, even then, how I could know them without touching them. I could actually point to them." (pg. 40)
Another man, also blind from birth, found himself:
"In an enormous library during the transcendental phase of his NDE and saw 'thousands and millions and billions of books, as far as you could see.' Asked if he saw them visually he said, 'Oh, yes!' Did he see them clearly? 'No problem.' Was he surprised at being able to see thus? 'Not in the least. I said, 'hey, you can't see,' and I said, 'well, of course I can see. Look at those books. That's ample proof I can see.'" (pg. 49)
Then there's the story of "Frank" who asked his friend to pick out a tie for a wake of a mutual friend who had died. Later, he took a nap and had an OBE in which he saw the tie: It was red with gray circles on it, and he was surprised to find out what it looked like. His friend was shocked when Frank described the tie to his friend. This incident was independently verified by his friend (pg. 70).

The book presents some very interesting insights: For example, a man named Jeff was severely visually impaired in his left eye, and completely blind in his right eye. During his NDE, he was surprised to find he could see perfectly through both eyes. He saw his path through the tunnel, for example. (pg. 82)

Another thing I found fascinating: People who are congenitally blind do not have visual images in their dreams at all. Their dreams are just like their waking life: they can hear, touch, etc., but they cannot see. Children who lose their eyesight before the age of 5 also tend to not have visual imagery in dreams. Kids who become blind between 5 and 7 may or may not retain visual imagery in their dreams, and people who become blind after age 7 seem to have "visual" dreams. (pg 84)

And yet they all still seem to "see" during OBEs and NDEs. Here's the thing: Congenitally blind people describe their NDEs and OBEs as qualitatively different in that they can actually see whereas their dreams always lacked a visual element. (pg. 84)

Another thing I found absolutely fascinating: There have been several cases in which a congenitally blind person had their physical eyesight restored by doctors. In those cases, they have an extremely hard time dealing with their newfound eyesight, learning to identify and recognize shapes and such. But when a blind person has an OBE or an NDE, they don't: they're not only able to instantly "see," they can instantly grasp what they see. Wow, that's mind-blowing.

The authors approached this scientifically, seeking other reasonable explanations. They consulted vision specialists. They shoot down Susan Blackmore's theories regarding "retrospective reconstruction." (pg. 86) They discuss "blindsight" and "skin-based vision" theories. They do all their homework.

They also address the language problem: Our society is so geared toward normally "sighted" people that our language interferes with our descriptions. For example, blind people often say they were "watching television" even though that's physically impossible. Could all this just be a big misunderstanding? Could they be using the words metaphorically? There's a long, fascinating discussion, but the bottom line is: no. It's more than that. Blind people seem to "see" things that are later verified to be true.

Here's another interesting thing: blind people, with no possible experience of sight, describe their NDEs and OBEs with concepts like color, as different frequencies of light they perceived. When you think about it, that's pretty darn accurate. One blind woman described the different colors of the flowers she "saw." Another described how the doctors and nurses in the Operating Room all wore green outfits.

Some of these blind people seemed genuinely surprised at how their own physical body "looked." One woman described her body as a gray outline, which is how I normally see mine. Another described her body as looking very black.

The bottom line is that "sight" seems to be simply an "interpretation" of a set of data, and that remains the same regardless of how you gather that data, whether it comes from your eyes or another source. The book's authors call it "transcendental awareness." And it seems to be the same data for both sighted and blind people alike. It's all just data and our mind's interpretation of that data, right?

The book is 140 pages, professionally written, with "smallish" text and margins, so it's not a big book, but there's a fair amount of content. In places, it's a bit dry, even for my tastes. They use a lot of long scientific words. At times, it's difficult to read, so it took me a while to get through it. I didn't find any typos or mistakes in the text.

I'm give the book 3 and a half stars.

Bob Peterson
25 June 2019

1 comment:

  1. I have aphantasia, the inability to visualize. This gives me hope that I can still have OBEs! Thanks for the review!