People Born Blind
Can See During a Near-Death Experience
Umipeg, a forty-five year old blind woman, was
just one of the more than thirty persons that
Dr. Kenneth Ring and
Sharon Cooper interviewed at length during
a two-year study just completed concerning near-death
experiences of the blind. The results of their
study appear in their newest book
Mindsight. Vicki was born blind, her optic
nerve having been completely destroyed at birth
because of an excess of oxygen she received
in the incubator. Yet, she appears to have been
able to see during her NDE. Her story is
a particularly clear instance of how NDEs of
the congenitally blind can unfold in precisely
the same way as do those of sighted persons.
As you will see, apart from the fact that Vicki
was not able to discern color during her experience,
the account of her NDE is absolutely indistinguishable
from those with intact visual systems. The following
is an excerpt from Dr. Ring's latest book reprinted
Vicki told Dr. Ring she
found herself floating above her body in the
emergency room of a hospital following an automobile
accident. She was aware of being up near the
ceiling watching a male doctor and a female
nurse working on her body, which she viewed
from her elevated position. Vicki has a
clear recollection of how she came to the realization
that this was her own body below her. The following
is her experience.
"I knew it was
me ... I was pretty thin then. I was
quite tall and thin at that point. And
I recognized at first that it was a
body, but I didn't even know that it
was mine initially.
"Then I perceived
that I was up on the ceiling, and I
thought, 'Well, that's kind of weird.
What am I doing up here?'
"I thought, 'Well,
this must be me. Am I dead? ...'
"I just briefly
saw this body, and ... I knew that it
was mine because I wasn't in mine."
she was able to note certain further identifying
features indicating that the body she was observing
was certainly her own.
"I think I was wearing the plain gold
band on my right ring finger and my
father's wedding ring next to it. But
my wedding ring I definitely saw ... That
was the one I noticed the most because
it's most unusual. It has orange blossoms
on the corners of it."
is something extremely remarkable and provocative
about Vicki's recollection of these visual impressions,
as a subsequent comment of hers implied.
was," she said, "the only
time I could ever relate to seeing and
to what light was, because I experienced
told them that following her out-of-body episode,
which was very fast and fleeting, she found
herself going up through the ceilings of the
hospital until she was above the roof
of the building itself, during which time she
had a brief panoramic view of her surroundings. She
felt very exhilarated during this ascension
and enjoyed tremendously the freedom of movement
she was experiencing. She also began to hear
sublimely beautiful and exquisitely harmonious
music akin to the sound of wind chimes.
scarcely a noticeable transition, she then discovered
she had been sucked head first into a tube and
felt that she was being pulled up into it. The
enclosure itself was dark, Vicki said, yet she
was aware that she was moving toward light. As
she reached the opening of the tube, the music
that she had heard earlier seemed to be transformed
into hymns and she then "rolled out"
to find herself lying on grass.
surrounded by trees and flowers and a vast number
of people. She was in a place of tremendous
light, and the light, Vicki said, was something
you could feel as well as see. Even the people
she saw were bright.
"Everybody there was made of light.
And I was made of light. What the light
conveyed was love. There was love everywhere.
It was like love came from the grass,
love came from the birds, love came
from the trees."
then becomes aware of specific persons she knew
in life who are welcoming her to this place.
There are five of them. Debby and Diane were
Vicki's blind schoolmates, who had died years
before, at ages 11 and 6, respectively.
they had both been profoundly retarded as well
as blind, but here they appeared bright and
beautiful, healthy and vitally alive.
longer children, but, as Vicki phrased it, "in
Vicki reports seeing two of her childhood caretakers,
a couple named Mr. and Mrs. Zilk, both of whom
had also previously died. Finally, there was
Vicki's grandmother - who had essentially raised
Vicki and who had died just two years before
this incident. In these encounters, no actual
words were exchanged, Vicki says, but only feelings
- feelings of love and welcome.
midst of this rapture, Vicki is suddenly overcome
with a sense of total knowledge.
"I had a feeling like I knew everything
... and like everything made sense.
I just knew that this was where ...
this place was where I would find the
answers to all the questions about life,
and about the planets, and about God,
and about everything ... It's like the
place was the knowing."
revelations are unfolding, Vicki notices that
now next to her is a figure whose radiance is
far greater than the illumination of any of
the persons she has so far encountered. Immediately,
she recognizes this being to be Jesus. He greets
her tenderly, while she conveys her excitement
to him about her newfound omniscience and her
joy at being there with him.
he communicates to her.
it wonderful? Everything is beautiful
here, and it fits together. And you'll
find that. But you can't stay here now.
It's not your time to be here yet and
you have to go back."
Vicki reacts, understandably
enough, with extreme disappointment and protests
want to stay with you."
being reassures her that she will come back,
but for now, she "has to go back and learn
and teach more about loving and forgiving."
resistant, however, Vicki then learns that she
also needs to go back to have her children.
With that, Vicki, who was then childless but
who "desperately wanted" to have children
(and who has since given birth to three) becomes
almost eager to return and finally consents.
before Vicki can leave, the being says to her,
in these exact words, "But first, watch
Vicki then sees is "everything from my
birth" in a complete panoramic review of
her life, and as she watches, the being gently
comments to help her understand the significance
of her actions and their repercussions.
thing Vicki remembers, once the life review
has been completed, are the words, "You have
to leave now."
she experiences "a sickening thud"
like a roller-coaster going backwards, and finds
herself back in her body.
reports, replete with visual imagery, were the
rule, not the exception, among Ring and Cooper's
blind respondents. Altogether, 80% of their
entire sample claimed some visual perception
during their near-death or out-of-body encounters. Although
Vicki's was unusual with respect to the degree
of detail, it was hardly unique in their sample.
the initial onset of visual perception of the
physical world is disorienting and even disturbing
to the blind. This was true for Vicki,
for example, who said:
I had a hard time relating to it (i.e.,
seeing). I had a real difficult time
relating to it because I've never experienced
it. And it was something very foreign
to me ... Let's see, how can I put it
into words? It was like hearing
words and not being able to understand
them, but knowing that they were words.
And before you'd never heard anything. But
it was something new, something you'd
not been able to previously attach any