Review:

Mindsight
by
Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper

Through this pioneering, preliminary study, the authors attempt to substantiate reports that have been circulated for years among those who study near-death experiences, of people with severely impaired vision, no vision, or even those who have been blind since birth, being able to see during a near-death experience or an out-of-body experience. They set about this task by collecting a group of such people, interviewing them, and interviewing anyone who could corroborate their testimony. People in all three above-mentioned groups were included. No time-limit was made as to how recently the experience occurred. Even so, the sample size was relatively small--of the 46 persons screened, 31 were accepted.

Given that some of these events had occurred years before, it was difficult to corroborate the testimony of the subjects. In a few cases, the corroboration was maddeningly vague, or missing a crucial detail that would have clinched it. In a few cases, however, those details were present. A blind woman, suddenly out of her body, sees that there is a pile of unwashed dishes near the sink; her husband, embarrassed, must admit that it was true. Another blind woman, out of her body, goes to her friend's house. The friend is at a private party, has drunk too much, and is seen to be kneeling at the toilet, throwing up, holding her long hair to the side with her left hand. The friend comfirms all details.

In one or two of the cases, the respondent equivocates about whether they were actually seeing. It seems to have included other senses, including touch. When re-interviewed, other respondents likewise became unsure. The authors conclude that they are reporting a different kind of perception in which the senses are merged and interchangeable, and they go to great lengths to find parallels in other reports. Firstly, as the authors are well-aware, there is an inherent paradox in having a person who has never seen (in this life) describe sight. But, some of the respondents have seen as young children, so one should simply be able to compare their testimony to those who were congenitally blind. Secondly, if any of the respondents saw sharply and clearly while out of their bodies, then we know that it is possible to see sharply and clearly out of one's body (invoking William James' white crow analogy). That one person did not see sharply and clearly, does not necessarily bring into question that it is possible to do so. I think the authors are being a bit too defensive and timid in this area. I would rather direct my questions to why this particular respondent did not see sharply, than to question the testimony of the others and re-question them. When you re-question someone, especially in an area like this where they are unsure how to describe it to begin with, you introduce another variable of suggestion, causing them to be more unsure than they were the first time. I would rather rely on the first testimony than the second in such a case.

The point is that I do not question that in the out-of-body state, senses may be more fluid and interchangeable than the way we experience them in the body. However, that one person's sight while out of the body was unclear, should not call into question the testimony of other people whose sight was clear. Perhaps there are factors which influence why a blind person's sight would be clear or unclear during such an experience, including things like belief and expectation, the cause of the blindness (whether, for example, it has karmic elements of guilt), and so-on, just to wildly speculate for a moment.

I had a very brief OBE (out-of-body) experience many years ago. I could definitely see. My body was positioned on my back, about 2 feet from what I was viewing. I was viewing it to the side from a few inches away by the end of the experience (I discovered by trial and error that I could "will" myself closer)--but when the experience ended abruptly, I found myself instanteously back in my original position, looking up. So for me, personally, there's no question. My case has no elements that would convince anyone else.

This study in itself may not convince skeptics; but it clearly shows that the handwriting is on the wall. When I was a typesetter, we used a kind of coding much like DOS or HTML. We could see what we had coded when it was sent to a "preview"; it came out on photographic paper. The shop I worked for charged $60/hour to typeset a resume. This was in the mid-1980's. One day, a co-worker drove me to a printing company where a man demonstrated a computer called a "Macintosh". He did a "type runaround"--where type copy is run around the shape of an image--in about 3 minutes. The same procedure used to take even a skilled typesetter about an hour. The handwriting was clearly on the wall.

This book is like the demonstration of that first Macintosh. I need say no more.

 

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