People who were blind from birth have had brushes with death in which they felt themselves leave their bodies and experience vision for the first time. For some, it seemed natural; for others, it was a confusing and shocking experience.
Many people experience this sensation of leaving the body during a near-death experience (NDE). A 1982 Gallup poll found that 15 percent of all Americans who had almost died (under widely varying circumstances) reported NDEs. About 9 percent reported the “classic out-of-body experience,” 11 percent said they entered another realm, and 8 percent said they encountered spiritual beings.
For blind NDEers, the visual perceptions add another level of mystery.
Some people say NDEs are hallucinations, though many who study NDEs refute this explanation. Hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation, is one often-cited cause. Another is rapid eye movement (REM) intrusion—when the REM associated with dreaming during sleep happens while one is awake.