To the Editor:
I'd like a comment on Dr. Irwin's review of Mindsight (JP, 64, 107-113), a book written by Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper, which discusses both formal studies and anecdotes about blind people being able to "see" during OBEs/NDEs.
Dr. Irwin revealed why he is a capable commentator on OBE/NDE issues. A good reviewer, he helped the reader understand the strengths and weakness of the book and gain insight into nuances the nonspecialist would not detect. One of the main points of contention regarding the research is the following: if blind people can see while "out of the body" (and Irwin feels Ring/Cooper fall short of substantiating that they do), then how is the perception processed?
Regarding this issue, it might be instructive to know what happens when people born deaf, who are successful candidates for the Gochlear Ear Implant, hear for the first time. This small electrical implant behind the ear allows the brain once again to receive and convert external vibrations (that is, sound). Is their being able to "gain hearing" pertinent to conceptualizing how a blind person can "gain sight" during an OBE/NDE?
When a person deaf since birth successfully undergoes a cochlear ear implant, and initially turns on its electrical signal, there is a period of weeks or months of training before the "rush of noise" heard can be associated with specific vibration patterns and/or separated from background (competing sound patterns). In other words, a "newly hearing" person cannot readily differentiate between the meow of a cat and the bark of a dog, or between an engine starting and a bird singing. There is a lot of frustration, on the part of both the deaf person and the specialist trainer, caused by the deaf person wanting to give up trying to learn how to hear and go back to the "comfort of deafness. …