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I can think of multiple possible purposes for Saul's blindness: 1) as a deterrent to Saul carrying out his original intent of arresting Christians in Damascus and bringing them to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1-2); 2) as a demonstration of Jesus' power and authority; 3) to provide a three-day (Acts 9:9) opportunity or interval of helplessness to Saul during which he would be unable to do anything other than to reflect on what had happened; to pray (Acts 9:11); and to re-order his thinking on who Jesus was, and what the implications of that new awareness would be for his future conduct (which he immediately demonstrated after receiving his sight by going to the synagogues in Damascus and proving that Jesus was the Messiah)(Acts 9:20); 4) to have God's involvement in the situation further reinforced and emphasized to him by experiencing a vision of Ananias coming to him to restore his sight (Acts 9:12), and also by Ananias' knowledge of Jesus having appeared to him, and by Ananias' stated purpose of having come so that Saul might be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17); 5) to give him an opportunity to experience firsthand (through the recovery of his sight) the love, mercy, and forgiveness of Christ and of Christians toward him, despite his history as a persecutor of the church; and to provide him with a consequent sense of humility (1 Corinthians 15:9) that increased his usefulness to God.
So that he could see! Remember Saul/Paul was spiritually blind as evidenced by his persecution of Christians. Something dramatic was needed to get his attention. Paul had plenty of time to think about what he had experienced. During the time he was blind, he couldn't help but see Jesus was more than just a man or even that he had just had a vision. His (Spiritual) eyes were opened long before he reached Damascus. And not only him, but all of us as well through his writings and ministry. You could even say, He was blinded so we could see!
I believe Saul was immediately converted when Jesus blinded him and asked him why he was being persecuted. God overran Saul with his love and holy spirit. It is ordinarily not possible for a human being to change their behavior 180 degrees in an instant, and it is clearly evident that Saul become Paul by supernatural power. It is further proof of Jesus's resurrection and look what Paul did the rest of his life in building the church. Anyone who has experienced an immediate and dramatic conversion to Christ can identify with what happened on the Road to Damascus.
I think the answers about spiritual blindness while having physical sight is true of all humans before given God's Grace of Enlightenment in order to see the truth of God's Word and know the True Logos, Jesus. Saul, meaning "asked for or prayed for," became Paul as Acts 13 starts him being called this name, it means, "small." So Saul became humbled and obedient to the Lord Jesus after his encounter with the light-giver. One more thing about his physical eyesight: It doesn't seem it ever was the same, for 2 Corinthians 12:7, he states about not being exalted, also in Galatians 6:11, he talks about having to write in large letters and signings with his own handwriting. Romans 16:22, talks about Tertius helping Paul. Paul was seemingly superior in education and prominence, but God's Grace was sufficient when he was knocked down humanely, and found Salvation on his knees. When our Spiritual eyes are opened to God's Truth He then will allow much Light to be spread, regardless of our physical assets.
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