Being struck by lightning

Category: Events



Introduction and description

Lightning is a dramatic natural example of static discharge. While the details remain a subject of debate, the initial charge separation is thought to be associated with contact between ice particles within storm clouds.

In general, significant charge accumulations can only persist in regions of low electrical conductivity, hence the flow of neutralising charges often results from neutral atoms and molecules in the air being torn apart to form separate positive and negative charges, which travel in opposite directions as an electric current, neutralizing the original accumulation of charge. The static charge in air typically breaks down in this way at around 10,000 volts per centimeter (10 kV/cm) depending on humidity.

The discharge superheats the surrounding air causing the bright flash, and produces a shock wave causing the clicking sound. The lightning bolt is simply a scaled up version of the sparks seen in more domestic occurrences of static discharge. The flash occurs because the air in the discharge channel is heated to such a high temperature that it emits light by incandescence. The clap of thunder is the result of the shock wave created as the superheated air expands explosively.

Lightning strikes over a British Airways plane at the Johannesburg airport in South Africa. Lightning is caused by frozen raindrops colliding with each other as they move around in a thundercloud. These collisions create an electric charge. Lighting kills and injures more people in the U.S. each year than hurricanes or tornados.

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Generally speaking being struck by lightning causes burns, unconsciousness or coma.  It can blind you, or make you permanently deaf, it can stop the heart and cause death. 

But in some rare cases it can also give you a spiritual experience.  Generally speaking it would seem that anyone struck directly is simply lucky to come out of it alive, but being struck ‘indirectly’ is far more effective at producing an experience.


Filigree burn of lightning: two case reports
- Kumar V; Department of Pathology, Forensic Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University Malaya, Kuala-Lumpur Malaysia.

Lightning is a powerful natural electrostatic discharge produced during a thunderstorm. The electric current passing through the discharge channels is direct with a potential of 1000 million volts or more. Lightning can kill or injure a person by a direct strike, a side-flash, or conduction through another object. Lightning can cause a variety of injuries in the skin and the cardiovascular, neurological and ophthalmic systems.

Thunder can cause spiritual experiences via infrasound, but lightning causes spiritual experiences as a result of the electrical discharge.  It may affect the person long term via brain damage or it may only be a temporary knock out to functions in the brain, but the type of stimulation [if one can call it this] is the high intensity type.

Although some people get a spiritual experience when indirectly struck, some aren’t struck but get an effect from being near where the lightning strikes. The rapidly changing fields associated with repeated lightning strikes are powerful enough to induce magnetic fields  in humans within 200 metres. The strike has to be of a particular type in which there are multiple return strokes at the same point over a period of a few seconds, a phenomenon that occurs in about 1-5 per cent of strikes.  In this case, the cause is strictly speaking magnetic stimulation, but the principle of how it works is much the same as electrical stimulation since magnetic fields induce electrical stimulation.  Two scientists Peer and Kendl have estimated that “at a conservative estimate, roughly 1%  of (otherwise unharmed) close lightning experiencers are likely to perceive transcranially induced above-threshold magnetic cortical stimulation".[Ref : arxiv.org/abs/1005.1153: Transcranial Stimulability Of Phosphenes By Long Lightning Electromagnetic Pulses].

The Greeks believed a person struck by lightning or who had a ‘close encounter’ with lightning was in possession of magical powers and in tribal cultures throughout the world 'lightning shamans' are venerated and feared as mighty shamans.   Those struck by lightning are said to ‘manifest superhuman powers’ given to them by the 'Thunder Beings'.

For more details see also Types of lightning.

How it works

This may work via  a number of ways.

Related observations