The ability to see without using the eyes, also known as paroptic vision, dermo-optical perception (DOP), hyperesthesia, synesthesia, cutaneous vision (skin vision), extraretinal vision, and biointroscopy. The term eyeless sight was first popularized through the English translation of a book by the famous French author Jules Romains (Louis Farigoule) titled Vision Extra-Rétinienne (1920), which detailed Romains's research in developing the extraordinary and little-known faculty of seeing without the use of the eyes. The book was not well received, however, and was ridiculed by his colleagues. Refused access to subjects for further experiments, Romains abandoned his scientific research, turned his attention to the literary arts, and went on to become a world-famous poet, dramatist, and novel-ist.
Prior to Romains's book there had been scattered references to eyeless sight from the seventeenth century on. British scientist Robert Boyle referred to a doctor's report about a blind man who could distinguish colors by touch. In the eighteenth century, Jonathan Swift included a strange reference in Gulliver's Travels (1726) to a blind man who could distinguish paint colors by feeling and smelling. Throughout the nineteenth century there were occasional medical accounts of transposition of sight to different areas of the body.
Ten years after publication of Romains's book, Manuel Shaves of São Paulo, Brazil, tested four hundred blind patients and reported that about a dozen of them seemed to have the faculty of "skin vision," some being able to distinguish colors.
During the 1930s a Kashmiri fire-walking performer named Kuda Bux demonstrated what was claimed to be eyeless sight before a distinguished medical panel. Although heavily blindfolded, with lumps of dough over his eyes, and with metal foil, woollen bandages, and layers of gauze, Bux had no difficulty reading from books. He gave a similar demonstration in Montreal, Canada, in 1938, and in 1945 during a U.S. tour he rode a bicycle through Times Square, New York, while heavily blindfolded. However, much doubt has arisen concerning Kuda Bux's performances owing to claims such as those of stage magician Milbourne Christopher, who suggested there were defects in the blindfolding.
In 1963 Russian scientist I. M. Gol'dberg reported his experiments with Rosa Kuleshova in an article in Soviet Psychology and Psychiatry. During the previous September, Gol'dberg had demonstrated Kuleshova's ability to read ordinary printed text with the fingers of her right hand when normal vision was completely excluded. Rosa could also determine color tones on paper and objects. The term dermo-optical perception became established.
After publication of the experiments with Kuleshova, Richard P. Youtz, a psychologist at Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, experimented with a Mrs. P. Stanley, a 42-year-old housewife. Youtz concluded that color sensing through the fingertips was a real phenomenon and believed that some 10 percent of a female college population tested by him had the ability in rudimentary form.
Even before the reports on Kuleshova, an April 1965 story from the Associated Press reported that Vichit Sukhakarn of Bangkok was teaching blind people to see by hypnosis. Sukhakarn claimed that if volunteers concentrated deeply on the thought of "seeing through the cheeks," the nerve endings of the skin became so sensitive that impulses were transmitted to the brain and converted into visual images. Some of his blind subjects were reported able to "read" a newspaper or "watch" a movie with their cheeks. He opened an institution for blind children in Thailand and found 8-to 14-year-old subjects very susceptible to training. His findings were in line with Romains's experiments suggesting that some light hypnotic or suggestible factor assisted the development of eyeless sight.
In 1966 Yvonne Duplessis at the Centre D'Eclairagisme began reviving French research into eyeless sight with the aid of a grant from the Parapsychology Foundation. Duplessis trained blind volunteers to "see" objects both at a distance (paroptic perception) and by touch (dermo-optical perception). Volunteers also developed the faculty to distinguish colors by eyeless sight, which some investigators believe is capable of development mainly through use of the fingers, cheeks, or epigastric region, all sensitive skin areas. The faculty seems facilitated by light hypnotic suggestion.
The research of Duplessis was presented in a paper at the First International Conference on Psychotronics, held at Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1974. At the conference, a small re-search group from Poland, headed by Lech Stefanski (founder of the International Section on Parapsychology), reported similar experiments. Although there have been counterreports suggesting that such results were obtained because of imperfect control or cheating, the significant number of positive results has encouraged some parapsychological researchers.
(See also Stomach, Seeing with the )
Duplessis, Yvonne. "Dermo-optical Sensitivity and Perception." International Journal of Biosocial Research 7, no. 2 (1985).
Goldberg, I. M. "On Whether Tactile Sensitivity Can be Improved by Exercise." Soviet Psychology and Psychiatry 2, no. 1 (1963).
Romains, Jules [Louis Farigoule]. Vision Extra-Rétinienne. 1920. Translated by C. K. Ogden as Eyeless Sight: A Study of Extra-Retinal Vision and the Paroptic Sense. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1924. Reprint, New York: Citadel Press, 1978.