Romains, Jules - Experimenting with Eyeless sight
Type of Spiritual Experience
The description for this observation comes from one book – Eyeless Sight by Jules Romains.
As it doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you read the progression I have provided quite a full decription of the stages. The technique is simple - Romains used a blindfold.
What he achieved was technically speaking called blindsight, but blindsight is actually an out of body experience. It took him a very very long time before it worked.
A description of the experience
Jules Romains – Eyeless sight
ONE - The arrangement of the experiment is easy to imagine; the experimenter places in front of his face, at a small distance, a very visible object….
By a bad interpretation of what I had established in the case of my subjects, I thought I ought to direct my first attempts in vision on signs, printed words and numbers. But as I became convinced later, such exercises assume an already developed function.
If we seek to discover the first gleams of ‘paroptic’ perception by introspection we must attempt to see large and more brilliant objects, such as a piece of furniture, a gold picture frame, a crystal bowl etc. The first thing to do indeed, would be to try to perceive not any particular object but the surroundings, the exterior light, space, however, vague and confused this perception may be at first.
TWO - It is probable that voluntary attention and concentration of consciousness are indispensable. But it is not easy to give attention to something not yet actual, to concentrate thought on an indefinite point. We are thus reduced to seeking a sort of silence of the consciousness and to catching in this silence the slightest indication. Hence the man who sets out to discover will be faced by a preliminary period of waiting, with very little encouragement; and this can last for a considerable time.
Summed up thus in a few words, the programme seems simple. Its application is singularly complex and arduous.
THREE - At first we are led to observe that modern man, as he has been formed by our civilisation and our mental methods, has no habit of attention, nor even any idea of what it really is.
We credit ourselves with an eminent faculty of attention because we are capable of reading, without notable distraction, a hundred page monograph on physics. We do not realise that these hundred pages are in reality a rapid succession of facts, images and perspectives constantly new, stimuli constantly renewed and unforeseen…
We are likewise very proud of being able to meditate on a problem for hours at a stretch; we do not realise that the central idea of the problem is the basis for innumerable ramifications, and that our mind amuses itself by following now one, now another of these divergent and capricious directions.
But we have not the least suspicion of the truly fixed attention which grasps an immovable object and as it were squeezes it to extract all its content. A great mathematicien, a profound philosopher, is only an infant in this respect. And all sorts of ascetics, from the fakirs of India to certain modern empiricists, could teach our most penetrating thinkers a great deal on this point.
Assuredly, our attention is discursive, in the sense in which discursion means wandering. We are skilful at following the flight of ideas. But if our quarry remains motionless, it escapes us, carried past as we are by our momentum.
FOUR - I imagined, I do not know why, that the first [images] would appear to me as states internally located, like some sort of intra cerebral vision, and to discover them I took the mental attitude of a man who is seeking to clarify a memory or an image. I forced myself to see ‘within myself’.
The result showed me that this attitude is a mistake. On the contrary we must force ourselves to see outside ourselves, to reach the object at the place and the distance where it is; we must forget that we are wearing bandages, think nothing about the eyes, nor about any particular process of perception; we must act as if we had the power of entering into direct contact with the exterior things present, as if the surroundings and the objects of which they are made up came to us, declared themselves to us without intermediary.
In a word everything occurs as if we had immediate perception.
FIVE - I often had in my hands a well known object, the cover of a book of which I could reproduce the minutest details. I imagined the object without difficulty, but not for a second did I have the impression of seeing it.
I marvelled indeed, at the calm clarity with which a normal consciousness marks the distinction between the imagined and the perceived, and at the ready and unhesitating assurance with which it refuses to take its desires for realities.
[Romains tried this for over 12 sittings spread over about a month, none of which lasted more than an hour. And nothing happened. As he says these times were ‘wearying and disappointing’ but they weren’t fruitless because during them he was actually learning what being attentive actually meant. He then went on to extend the time and tried one sitting which lasted several hours, with short rests, involving ‘great expenditure of energy’ during which his breathing rate increased, his heart beat faster and his muscle all tensed up. And he got a result]
SIX - I saw far from clearly, but with a striking objectivity and exteriority of which no idea can be formed without having experienced it…..
I had especially the impression of a whole, as the opaque darkness in which I had been enclosed during the earlier stages gave place to a feeble and disturbed light, comparable to that found in the middle of a long tunnel, a light which scarcely suffices to reveal the most salient points of one or two objects. I may add this sight was wavering and discontinuous. It lasted two or three minutes; then absolute blackness returned for a full quarter of an hour
[After a couple of days in which he had a rest, he then started again, spending as much as 4, 5, even 6 hours on each session. But he soon came to realise this was too long and that a sitting of an hour can give the same result as long as the technique is right.
As he gradually taught himself to be more and more attentive, the brightness intensified and he started to be able to ‘perceive’ more objects with a better defined shape to them and in colour. He also started to be able to perceive smaller objects like keys and scissors.]
SEVEN - There is at first confused vision of voluminous objects with ridges, bosses and shining surfaces.
The attempt at vision of smaller objects occasions a truly remarkable phenomenon; plurality of images; that is to say, if I try to see a key, for example, I notice for several seconds a quivering, a dance of very fleeting, uncertain and incomplete images, which have neither the same localisation in space, nor exactly the same size and which are finally resolved into a single image, itself also quite unstable.
The range of vision seems to increase with its exercise. At first, everything occurs as if there were an impenetrable zone of shadow two or three metres from the body. Then this zone moves back and the shadow little by little is dissipated.
[Eventually he was able to see all around him in what he called ‘heterocentric and sternal vision’, but which these days we would refer to as the very beginnings of an out of body experience. Thus without him realising what he had achieved, he was able, just using sensory deprivation, to get to an out of body state.
He even managed to reach a state where he was fully out of body, with his centre of consciousness drifting rather half heartedly close to his body and down a bit, as if it was a bit scared of leaving him…………
It took him 31 sittings and 150 hours to get to this state. But what an achievement – no drugs, no use of damaging mechanisms, just the use of sensory deprivation].