Seeing Without Eyes: Part I
discovered Mollie Fancher, a woman who SAW with blind eyes and did
other incredible things, while reading Volume II of HP Blavatsky’s Collected Writings.
Before telling Molly’s story I must say, “If this sort of tale catches
your attention, you might want to consider digging into HPB’s Isis Unveiled.”
Isis Unveiled is an extraordinary book which deals with truly extra-ordinary phenomena and people like Mollie Fancher. Isis,
like all of Blavatsky’s writings, endeavors to bring occult, esoteric,
inner things to the outer light. These phenomena for too long (another
130 years now) have been considered miraculous or demonic, fraudulent
or staged. Yet, the Real Thing manifests quite commonly in uncommon
people and unusual events which science cannot explain and often won’t
dare to study.
Isis Unveiled is a two-volume indexed work first
published in 1877 which has been continuously in print since that time.
It can be purchased in a variety of formats including a recent abridged
version. You can also read the whole original book for free by
downloading it from Google books or various Theosophy sites.
to the seeing blind girl, Mme. Blavatsky had this to say about her:
“Miss Mollie Fancher, of Brooklyn, a respectable young girl, according
to the statement of Dr. Charles E. West, has lived without any food for
over nine years. This extraordinary girl never sleeps—her frequent
trances being the only rest she obtains; she reads sealed letters as
though they were open; describes distant friends; though completely
blind, perfectly discriminates colours; and finally, though her right
hand is rigidly drawn up behind her head, by a permanent paralysis,
makes embroidery upon canvas, and produces in wax, without having taken
a lesson in the art, and with neither a knowledge of botany nor even
models to copy, flowers of a most marvellously natural appearance.”
Blavatsky, herself a real phenomenon, makes an unexpected appearance in
a 2002-book about Mollie Fancher I just finished reading. She is quoted
in an unsigned 1878-letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily
Union-Argus. There is one word clue which makes it clear that the
letter was written by Madame Blavatsky as she took on two prominent
medical men. “Ex-Surgeon General William A. Hammond, an eminent
authority on psychological subjects, who never heard of the case of
Miss Fancher until within a week, and who has never seen her,
pronounces her a humbug. Dr. George M. Beard, whose learning is
approximate only to that of the eminent Dr. Hammond, says, ‘It is not
scientific to investigate such pretensions.’ If ‘a little learning is a
dangerous thing,’ let such pigmies in wisdom as Prof. Parkhurst, the
Rev. Dr. Duryea, Prof. West, Dr. Speir, and others, of this city, be
grateful that, whatever their present peril, they are not exposed to
such awful risks as are Drs. Hammond and Beard.”
Fancher was known as the "Brooklyn Enigma" because she lived an
unexplainable (then and now) life from her teens until death in 1916 at
age 68. She was known as an excellent student at a reputable school. At
age 16 after two accidents, she became famous for her ability to
go without food. Also following the accidents, Mollie Fancher lost her
senses of sight, touch, taste, and smell while expressing compensatory
Reputable professionals verified her abstinence from
food which lasted for 14 years. Her notoriety inevitably increased when
noted physicians, Hammond and Beard, challenged her ability to go
without food for such a long period. Neither of them ever met or even
saw Miss Fancher.
On her second accident falling from and being
dragged behind a horse trolley, Mollie was thrown to the pavement. She
was knocked unconscious and suffered broken ribs. Thereafter, she
gradually lost her sight and other senses, her body became twisted,
legs and feet crossed. She developed epileptic-like spasms of her whole
body lasting up to three hours at a time. Then, Mollie proceeded into
trance states lasting five to 14 hours.
physicians were aghast and tried all sorts of measures to rid her of
these unusual symptoms. Mollie was repeatedly
• shaved and blistered.
• electrically shocked.
• treated with hydrotherapy.
• submitted to enemas.
the midst of her injuries, abstinence from foods, and scary treatments,
Miss Fancher proceeded to exhibit some very amazing things like
• being oblivious to pain inflicted by experimenters.
• predicting future events.
• reading books without use of her eyes. (This is akin to a talent which Edgar Cayce had.)
• gathering information at a distance (clairvoyance).
producing huge numbers of embroidery pieces and wax flowers despite her
visual defect and twisted extremities. She also wrote thousands of
• relating through five different personalities - Ruby, Rosebud, Idol, Sunbeam, and Pearl.
• staying in bed for 50 years.
told her original biographer, Abram Dailey, a number of important
things which may give some clues to the eerie phenomena she
• “[I] received nourishment from a source of which [they - physicians and attendants] were ignorant.”
• “My spasms and trances were essential to my living; but this my physicians did not know.”
• “I don’t know what they can base my complaint upon. I have broken the backbone of science and all the ‘ologies!”
story can be read in at least two versions in Michelle Stacey’s The
Fasting Girl and Abram Dailey’s The Brooklyn Enigma. The latter can be
downloaded for free at http://books.google.com.
Seeing Without Eyes: Part II
II of Mollie’s story has been slow to appear because I have been
focused on finishing my People Medicine book which is now off to the
printer. The interlude has not kept me from thinking about Mollie
Fancher and others like her: an area of research awaiting more
You may remember Mollie was The Brooklyn Enigma. A
woman injured twice in her teen years (1864-65) after which Mollie
experienced and expressed a wide variety of manifestations like
• prolonged involuntary fasting
• extinction of “natural functions”
• clairvoyance and prediction of future events
• demonstration of five different personalities
• restriction to bed for 50 years.
• loss of sense of pain along with other bodily senses
• ability to read books without use of her eyes
living without food for weeks, months and years seemed to garner the
most attention as she became one of The Fasting Girls of the 19th
century. But what seems of greater significance was her ability to
function without the use of her “normal” senses intact for long periods
Mollie lost use of her usual senses - sight, hearing,
touch, smell, taste, but drew upon other sources to make up for the
results of her injuries. This is somewhat like blind people developing
acute hearing to compensate for loss of sight. But, Mollie lost all of
her senses for a time and indeed made up for them in very unusual ways.
Mollie Fancher lost her sight, yet she could “see” to read among other
chores. This ability has been studied modestly over the decades in
efforts toward explanation and to fit laboratory type scientific
investigation. It has been called dermo-optical perception (also dermal
vision, dermo-optics, eyeless sight, eyeless vision, skin vision, skin
reading, finger vision, paroptic vision, para-optic perception,
cutaneous perception, digital sight, and bio-introscopy). This ability
has been known since the 17th century, but only in recent times has it
been tested. The simple explanation has been that the blind and others
can learn to “see” through their skin. Scientists don’t buy it as fact
and have so far not accepted any kind of “proof” to support the idea.
Transposition of the Senses:
“This extraordinary phenomenon was first reported by Tardy de
Montravel. In his Essai sur la Theorie du Somnambulisme Magnetique
(1785), he described how in his half-waking trance he could see with
the ‘pit of his stomach.’ In 1808, Dr. Pététin reported in his book,
Electricité Animale (1808), that he found the senses of taste, smell,
and hearing also wandering from the pit of the stomach to the tip of
the fingers and of the toes. Since then many similar cases have been
recorded, especially with hysterical subjects.
Lombroso carefully observed the phenomenon of eyeless sight. C. S. was
a young girl who lost the power of vision, but as a compensation she
‘saw’ with the same degree of acuteness at the point of the nose and
the left lobe of the ear. Her sense of smell was transposed under the
chin and later to the back of the foot.” [Answers.com] These sorts of
ability were also demonstrated by various “fasting girls” in the 1800s.
recent times, people like Carol Ann Liaros (Project Blind Awareness)
have taught blind and sighted people to use hands and skin to sense
color, see without eyes, and enhance intuitive abilities.
Paroptic vision and transposition of the senses are scientific or
pseudo-scientific explanations of phenomena which people like Mollie
Fancher exhibit. They only partially explain what happens in these
people and not too well at that.
There is a better way to come
to some understanding of how these people function than to say that
they can teach different parts of their bodies to see or hear, etc. The
better way comes through consideration of the astral body. This
suggestion may scare some and upset scientific types, but it bears
mentioning. Some day, this approach will be more understood, accepted
and even commonly demonstrated. How long? Who knows?
straightforward explanation is that we all have astral (emotional) and
mental bodies in which we repair to the inner worlds every night during
the hours of sleep. We then have neither eyes nor ears to sense
anything. Rather the whole of these bodies are capable of receiving
sensory information. The whole inner body sees, hears, feels, smells,
and tastes. There are no specific sense organs.
have detailed how this works. “In the physical body, as we know, there
are specialised organs for each sense, the eye for seeing, the ear for
hearing, and so on. In the astral body, however, this is not the case.
any one astral sense is not, strictly speaking, localised or confined
to any particular part of the astral body. It is rather the whole of
the particles of the astral body which possess the power of response. A
man, therefore, who has developed astral sight uses any part of the
matter of his astral body in order to see, and so can see equally well
objects in front, behind, above, below, or to either side. Similarly
with all the other senses. In other words, the astral senses are
equally active in all parts of the body.” (A.E. Powell, The Astral
So, I suggest that when Mollie Fancher became
physically blind and her other senses were detached, she merely took
advantage of innate abilities of her astral body. Abilities that she
and you and I use every night. You and I are not trained to bring back
our nightly astral memories. Mollie was forced to use her inner
potentials when her physical contacts with the outer were suddenly