Spiritual Blindness

Spiritual Blindness

“They answered him, You were born in utter sin, and you would teach us? And they cast him out!”

The late neurologist and author Oliver Sacks wrote about a man born blind whose sight was restored. This miracle occurred nei­ther through prayer, nor through a concoction of dirt and divine saliva, but through a surgical correction of the patient’s eyes.

The blind man agreed eagerly to the surgery, experimental and delicate though it was. The operation went well, although the man’s eyes had to be bandaged for a time to let them heal, but at last the day came when the bandages could be removed. The surgical team, the man’s family, and others assembled as the nurses carefully unwound the dressings from the patient’s face. All were hushed, expectant.

For the first time in his life, the man opened his eyes and …

What were they expecting? What would you expect?

Jubilation! Joy! “Ah, color! Light! My wife’s sweet face, just as I’d always imagined it!”

But instead, the man turned his head from side to side to side. His expression was baffled and frightened.

“What’s wrong?” his doctor asked at last, and at the sound of his voice, the man turned in his direction.

“Oh, my God!” he said, his voice trembling. “I thought I was all alone.” And the man began to weep.

The man had been blind since birth. His brain knew only sound and touch, smell and taste; it had never received visual stimulation. It had never developed the neural pathways needed for processing visual images and had never created categories by which he might understand the data now crashing against his retinas on waves of light. Technically, his eyes worked — but he could not make sense of what he saw. Continue reading